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Malaga remain the only team in the Champions League yet to concede after defeating AC Milan 1-0
26.10.12 - 12:31 -
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Dark horses on the charge again
The players huddle to celebrate the famous victory at the final whistle . Salvador Salas
Malaga have taken to the Champions League like a duck to water; the competition newcomers boast this season's best record, winning all three of their matches so far, conceding no goals. Wednesday's match was the toughest yet, and was the one home fans had been looking most forward to since the draw was made. AC Milan haven't had the best season in their history so far this year, and came into the game after a loss at the weekend in Italy's Serie A.
Pellegrini made one change from the side that beat Valladolid on Saturday, Recio dropped to the bench for Iturra who joined Camacho in the defensive midfielder positions. Eliseu reprised his role at left back while Monreal recovers from the back problem he picked up on international duty, and there was a space on the bench for young Cameroon striker Fabrice. AC Milan meanwhile, had to do without two important players, Robinho and Nigel de Jong through injury, and Bojan Krkic and Pato started on the bench.
At the start of play, Milan tried to impose their command on the ball, but a sloppy pass across the defence almost allowed Saviola to steal the ball and get through on goal. Chances early in the game were hard to come by, as both teams cancelled each other out in the midfield, and the ball regularly changed sides. Riccardo Montolivo was shown the first yellow card of the game for a heavy challenge on Ignacio Camacho. In the first half hour, chances for both sides were limited almost exclusively to set pieces, which were largely disappointing. Pazzini went close for Milan when he narrowly missed a cross from De Sciglio and Isco shot wide from Joaquín's cut back after an incisive breakaway by Malaga. Isco had another chance soon after when a shot from the edge of the box was pushed wide by Amelia, the Milan goalkeeper.
Shortly before half time Malaga had the best opportunity of the game so far, Jesús Gámez tried to retrieve a return ball from Portillo, but was knocked to the ground by Kévin Constant as he made his way into the box. Portuguese referee Pedro Proença pointed for a penalty to the delight of the home fans. Joaquín stepped up to take it, after he had missed one at the weekend, and did exactly the same as before, the ball brushed the crossbar as he sent it high into the stands. As the teams went in for the break, the fans were chanting Joaquín's name, encouraging him to continue.
As the second half started in heavy rain, the ball was sliding around more and it seemed that an error would decide the game. Malaga's defensive players were playing well despite the hazardous conditions. Just after the hour mark, Iturra knocked a ball over the Milan defence for Joaquín to chase, when he reached it, he managed to beat Amelia at his near post. Both players watched as the ball went in off the post, and the stadium erupted in celebration as the Costa del Sol side edged closer to another impressive win.
The last half an hour was very nervy for the home fans, Milan coach Allegri sent on Pato and Bojan in place of defensive minded players as they went looking for the equalising goal, El Shaarawy went closest for the Italians but his volleyed shot was well saved by Willy Caballero at the near post. Malaga were concentrating on keeping the ball, and Duda came on for Joaquín to calm the midfield and add some solidity. Santa Cruz's presence after his introduction also kept the Milan defence busy. Pellegrini's reaction to Milan's heavy late pressure and attacking changes was to hand Onyewu a three minute debut appearance to keep away the advances of Milan's attacking force.
There was a sense of relief when the referee finally blew the whistle for the end of the game. Three games played, three games won with seven goals scored and none conceded, not a bad record for a club supposedly in crisis. Malaga have the return trip in two weeks when they visit the San Siro knowing a win would guarantee qualification with two matches to spare.