Ronaldo winner for Real, Costa delights Atletico

Sat Mar 15, 2014 8:12pm EDT
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By Tim Hanlon

(Reuters) - Cristiano Ronaldo struck midway through the first half as leaders Real Madrid won 1-0 at Malaga in La Liga on Saturday, while Atletico Madrid stayed hot on their heels after Diego Costa netted in a 1-0 victory over Espanyol.

Costa, continuing a rich vein of form that has seen him bag 22 goals in the league and become a Spain international, outsprinted the defense before beating keeper Kiko Casilla in the 55th minute.

It was a cagey game but Atletico generally carried more threat in front of goal and now have 67 points, three fewer than Real. Barcelona, third on 63 points, face Osasuna on Sunday.

"Espanyol played very well and made it very difficult for us but we were strong and knew how to cope," Costa told reporters.

"We will keep going game by game and playing as we always do."

Ronaldo is top scorer in La Liga and notched his 25th league goal of the campaign with a clinical finish from the edge of the area to see off Malaga who battled hard but lacked a cutting edge.

Isco missed an excellent chance to give Real a more convincing win against his former club but the only true downside for the leaders was the injury picked up by France striker Karim Benzema.

He hurt his thigh after colliding with Ronaldo and had to be substituted but it did not look a serious injury.   Continued...

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (C) celebrates after scoring a goal against Malaga during their Spanish First Division soccer match at La Rosaleda stadium in Malaga, southern Spain March 15, 2014. REUTERS/Jon Nazca