Portillo scored the second Malaga goal in the 91st minute, wrapping up a comfortable victory.
Two second-half goals from midfielders Fernando Tissone and Francisco Portillo were enough to give Malaga a 2-0 victory over Andalusian rivals Almeria on Tuesday evening.
The visiting team’s journey down the coast was in vain after a dominant Malaga took advantage of Almeria’s lacklustre performance. Malaga couldn’t quite repeat the heroics of their last home game, a 5-0 triumph against Rayo Vallecano, but the win was comfortable, despite only taking Almería out of touching distance in the final minutes.
In the previous fixture on Saturday Malaga earned a 0-0 draw away to Real Sociedad in a tight and cagey game. Although Sociedad were still reeling following their midweek Champions League 2-0 loss at home to Shakhtar Donetsk, the draw was still a positive result against the Basque side, who only lost twice at the Anoeta last season.
On Tuesday neither side looked likely to break the deadlock in the opening half however, with the first 45 minutes having few chances to report on. Mounir El Hamdaoui and Victorini Antunes both had the early chances Malaga created but both could only fire straight at Almeria keeper Esteban Suárez after neat moves.
Frustration began to grow inside La Roseleda, Duda throwing a piece of turf he dislodged after connecting with more ground than ball in a timid shot that trickled into the arms of Esteban.
Referee Clos Gómez had become the recipient of much of the fans’ dissatisfaction. A penalty appeal was waved away by the official after Marcos Angeleri appeared to be shoved in the back when attempting to get on the end of a free kick floated in by stand-in captain Duda. Further drama was added when the assistant raised and waved his flag following the shove, but it was only to give offside on Angeleri with the expectant La Roseleda erupting in disapproval.
Possibly the best chance of the half fell to Almeria when forward Rodri evaded Malaga’s offside trap and collected a through ball behind the hosts’ back line. Willy Caballero, making his 100th Malaga appearance, recklessly closed down the striker leaving the goal vacant. Rodri should have been able to square the ball to on-loan midfielder Suso for a tap-in. But the pass had far too much pace on it and Suso could only watch the ball and the open goal flash by in front of him.
The second half saw a revival in Schuster’s team with Almeria placed under considerable pressure for the opening 20 minutes of the half. It was a series of corners in the 63rd minute, which resulted from Almeria’s keeper tipping round the post a long-range strike by Sergi Darder, that proved to be the breakthrough for Malaga. A corner whipped into the front post by Duda was flicked on by Sergio Sánchez and headed into the top corner by the poorly-marked Tissone.
Almeria almost replied instantly in similar fashion with a goalmouth scramble being eventually hooked clear but that was to be their final significant attack.
The game was being comfortably seen out by Malaga when the second goal in the 91st minute dispelled any lingering doubt of taking the three points. From the byline Santa Cruz, who replaced El Hamdaoui, cut back a cross into the feet of Portillo who, after dodging the challenges of both Almería defenders and inadvertently his own teammate Eliseu, delicately chipped a shot into the top corner. Rooted keeper Esteban could only watch and admire.
“We are capable of maintaining the rhythm and we should assume we can score,” Schuster said afterwards, referencing the nervy opening half. He did however admit that he felt Malaga were lucky to avoid conceding against high-scoring Almeria. Nevertheless, the result means Malaga have recorded three consecutive clean sheets and have not conceded a goal in 290 minutes.