The Paraguayan headed in the game’s only goal in the 76th minute.
The return of Roque Santa Cruz provided the extra firepower Malaga needed to overcome a stubborn Getafe side in the Blue and Whites’ league game on Saturday night.
The Paraguayan striker came off the bench, after over a month missing due to injury, to score the only goal in a game seen as pivotal in Malaga’s season. The result puts breathing space between Malaga and the relegation zone and alleviates the pressure on Bernd Schuster.
Malaga’s previous outing, a 3-3 draw against Osasuna in the Copa del Rey, saw them let a three-goal lead escape their grasp and any lapse of a similar magnitude would have only added to the dissatisfaction Schuster faces at La Rosaleda.
Malaga created the majority of the chances in an action-packed first half but the first opportunity fell to Getafe defender Rafa. However, he couldn’t control the power on his header and the attempt drifted over.
Malaga replied in a similar fashion, Sergio Sánchez beating his marker in the box on a corner. But the central-defender could only direct his header straight at the goalkeeper who parried the ball away. Minutes later Antunes tried to replicate the stunning free kick he scored against Osasuna but the left-back’s shot bounced wide of the goal.
Juanmi had the best chance to convert for the hosts. Antunes’s low cross skipped across in front of Osasuna’s back line with Juanmi waiting at the back post. The young striker however screwed his shot on to the post when it would have been easier to hit the back of the net.
In the second half Malaga continued to waste chances. Eliseu scuffed a shot wide and Juanmi missed another good opportunity in the six-yard box, hitting his shot over the bar after Moyá spilled Duda’s long-range effort.
Santa Cruz was introduced into the game in the 74th minute and wasted no time in making the impact needed to secure the victory. Just minutes after coming on, the striker connected well with out-of-favour midfielder Duda’s free kick, heading past Getafe’s rooted keeper.
Although Getafe had the time to reply to Santa Cruz’s opener, they posed little threat in the closing stages of the game which finished 1-0.
“We have played better than our results suggest. In La Liga it’s two or three players that make all the difference,” said Schuster, alluding to the experience Santa Cruz gave the side when coming on.
Whether the victory will restore some of the bridges Schuster has seemingly burnt with the fans is uncertain. The manager was jeered when his name was announced at the beginning of the game. With El Hamdaoui out injured for indefinite amount of time, the return of a strong centre-forward in Santa Cruz couldn’t have come at a better time for his manager and Malaga.