Madrid erases deficit to Malaga late

Defending champion Real Madrid staged a second-half fightback to beat Malaga 3-2 in their Copa del Rey first-leg match on Tuesday.

Sergio Sanchez and Martin Demichelis gave Malaga the lead with almost identical headers inside the first half-hour at Bernabeu Stadium, but Sami Khedira got Madrid’s comeback started with a goal in the 68th minute and Gonzalo Higuain hauled Madrid level two minutes later.

After relentless pressure, Karim Benzema slid home the winner in the 78th.

Madrid could meet archrival Barcelona in the quarterfinals if both teams win their last 16 ties. Barcelona plays its first leg at home to Osasuna on Wednesday.

There were surprise results in three other last 16 fixtures on Tuesday. Third-tier Mirandes claimed a 2-0 home win against topflight Racing Santander, second-tier Alcorcon had a 2-1 home victory against top division club Levante, and third-tier Albacete drew 0-0 with Athletic Bilbao.

The return legs will all be next week.

Madrid looked like adding its name to the list of unexpected scorelines after a sluggish first-half performance against Malaga.

Under coach Jose Mourinho, Madrid had won its last three matches against the visitors by an aggregate of 15-1.

The Madrid coach selected a strong starting lineup with Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Jose Callejon supporting Gonzalo Higuain in attack.

Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini, Mourinho’s predecessor at Madrid, selected another former Madrid employee in Ruud van Nistelrooy as his lone striker.

Madrid may have dominated recent encounters between the teams, but Malaga had the first chance when Santi Cazorla shot straight at Iker Casillas from the edge of the box in the fifth minute.

The warning was not heeded and Malaga took the lead soon after when Sergio Sanchez headed Cazorla’s corner past a helpless Casillas in the 10th.

Again, Madrid failed to learn the lesson and fell further behind from the same route. This time, Cazorla’s corner was met by Martin Demichelis, who beat Casillas to the ball and headed into the net in the 29th.

Madrid continued to enjoy the better of the possession, but looked rusty going forward after the winter break and slow in defense when Malaga counterattacked.

Mourinho used all of his substitutions at halftime, replacing Kaka, Alvaro Arbeloa and Jose Callejon with Sami Khedira, Benzema and Mesut Oezil.

The changes settled quickly and Khedira broke into the box to shoot past Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero and give Madrid hope in the 68th.

Just two minutes later, Higuain pounced on a misdirected backpass, rounded Caballero and rolled into the net from a tight angle to pull Madrid level.

The atmosphere inside the Bernabeu changed immediately. From jeers of frustration, the crowd turned to cheer every Madrid pass.

The 10-minute turnaround was completed when Higuain produced a deft flick for Benzema to run behind the defense and slot into the corner for the winner.