Real Madrid beat Malaga 2-0 at home on goals by Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria in the Spanish league on Saturday as Carlo Ancelotti's team continues to grind out wins before a tough five-day span with matches against Juventus and Barcelona.
Di Maria scored for Madrid seconds after halftime with a cross intended for Ronaldo that caught Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero out of position.
Madrid's 100-million-euro winger Gareth Bale went on for the final 15 minutes after recovering from a leg injury and earned a questionable penalty that Ronaldo converted in injury time.
Madrid hosts Juventus on Wednesday in the Champions League and travels to Barcelona next Saturday for the season's first clasico.
Madrid's victory provisionally closed the gap with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid to two points before they played their respective matches at Osasuna and Espanyol late.
Striker Karim Benzema picked up a leg knock in training on Friday and didn't play. Youngster Alvaro Morata started in his place and was Madrid's most active player in an otherwise dull first half that only saw Ronaldo hit the crossbar in the eighth minute.
While Madrid again failed to impress, it improved as the match went on and was only denied a bigger win by Caballero.
Malaga, meanwhile, offered even less in attack in manager Bernd Schuster's return to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, where he both played and coached for Madrid.
Caballero made an excellent reflex save with his left foot to deny Ronaldo from close range in the 82nd and two minutes later used his right hand to parry substitute Jese Rodriguez's low shot past his upright.
But Caballero couldn't reach Ronaldo's well-placed spot kick into the corner of the net after Bale had gone flying to the turf following what appeared to be light contact with Malaga defender Weligton.
Bale had done little before the penalty in his first action since injuring his left hamstring last month.
Real Sociedad also played Valencia late looking for a much-needed win before its Champions League trip to Manchester United on Tuesday.
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