Isco stars for Real

MADRID – Real Madrid midfielder Isco made up for the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo by guiding his heavily-rotated side to a 2-1 win at basement club Malaga on Sunday which lifted them above Valencia and up to third in La Liga.

Atletico Madrid moved back to within 11 points of runaway leaders Barcelona by comfortably beating Levante 3-0 at home as forwards Angel Correa, Antoine Griezmann and Fernando Torres were all on target.

Isco curled in a fizzing free kick to break the deadlock in the 29th minute but refrained from celebrating against his hometown club. The Spain international then provided the final pass of an exquisite team move for Casemiro to tap in the second goal in the 63rd.

Malaga striker Diego Rolan scored down the other end in the final minute of stoppage time after controlling the ball with his hand but there was no time left for the league’s lowest-ranked club to try to add to their goal.

Real had clinched last season’s Liga title on their last trip to Malaga. However, coach Zinedine Zidane used this visit to rest many players after Wednesday’s energy-sapping Champions League quarter-final second leg with Juventus, which his side lost 3-1 though they advanced to the semi-finals 4-3 on aggregate.

The Frenchman left top scorer Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Raphael Varane at home and put Marcelo and Toni Kroos on the bench. There were rare starts for defenders Jesus Vallejo and Theo Hernandez while fringe players Borja Mayoral and Dani Ceballos came on in the second half.