Osasuna striker Riera celebrates his goal that ended Malaga’s unbeaten run.
Schuster rolled the dice at half-time, but Osasuna’s defending left Malaga with little space to manoeuvre
A 23rd-minute strike by Osasuna forward Oriol Riera was enough last Friday evening to defeat an uninspiring Malaga 0-1. The loss is a disappointing setback after the progress made by Bernd Schuster’s team in recent weeks and even more so due to the fact that prior to kick-off Osasuna were struggling in 19th position. The victory was a deserved one for Osasuna and now makes Malaga’s trip, following the international break, to Real Madrid an even trickier prospect.
It wasn’t a smash-and-grab performance from Osasuna and even as early as the first minute they looked like the more threatening of the two teams. Riera was unlucky not to score after latching on to a misplaced pass to Tissone, with the Argentinian midfielder desperately attempting to pull back the Catalan striker. Riera was however denied by a smart stop, down to his right, by Willy Caballero. Tissone’s miscalculation would be indicative of the rest of his muted performance, which was far from his combative work away at Valladolid last weekend, which earned him comparisons to Viera.
Despite the early warning signs, Malaga’s defence failed to tighten up in response to the Osasuna pressure. The Malaga centre-backs couldn’t handle Riera and it was a case of when he would score rather than if. Winger Sisi’s inswinging cross found Riera who had evaded Angeleri’s slack marking. The striker then half-volleyed an attempt on goal with Caballero parrying away. However, the keeper couldn’t push the ball any futher away than Riera, who smashed the rebound into the roof of the net from six yards out. Malaga’s marking was so poor, that should Riera have somehow failed to convert one of the chances, another Osasuna player, lining up behind the striker, would have finished off the cross.
Schuster rolled the dice at half-time, bringing on strikers El Hamdaoui and Pawlowski. But Osasuna’s deep and narrow defending left Malaga with little space to manoeuvre and the latter player especially faded out of the game. Malaga had a substantial penalty appeal for a handball in the dying minutes. But to rob Osasuna of their victory late on would have exemplified the sometimes cruel nature of the game. Neither of the officials saw enough intent in the handball and Osasuna hung on.