Santa Cruz celebrates his well taken early goal. :: CARLOS MORET
From start to finish Malaga were the better side as they tore apart a Villarreal who are competing for Europa League qualification on Monday evening.
This was the most complete home performance that the Blue and Whites have produced this season as they played with ambition, defensive solidity and intensity. The visitors did not know what hit them as Amrabat, Duda and Santa Cruz bombarded the left flank.
The score was opened after six minutes as Samu showed strength and composure to play in Roque Santa Cruz who took one touch and managed to dink the ball over goalkeeper Asenjo from an almost impossible angle.
Villarreal had a chance to equalise shortly after but Caballero made a smart save from Jérémy Perbet. This was to be their best opportunity of the game as Malaga went through the gears and barely gave the Villarreal defence a chance to breathe. The game was being played in the final third of the pitch with consistent pressure shown by Malaga players to win the ball back.
The return of Duda from suspension was welcomed as the captain controlled the game from midfield and almost managed to score a goal from a corner at the end of the half.
The second period continued in the same way as the first and Duda was close to embarrassing Asenjo after his shot from inside his own half almost caught the on-loan goalkeeper out.
Malaga’s lead was doubled after 53 minutes as Amrabat avoided a tackle and sped down the left flank. He bided his time to place a perfect cross between the legs of Musacchio and into the path of Sergi Darder who guided the ball home.
The game evened out following the goal and Amrabat was once again the centre of attention as he was given an extraordinary red card for making a glasses gesture to referee Álvarez Izquierdo.
Villarreal were unable to break down the ten men of Malaga and the loss has dented their hopes of qualification into Europe. Meanwhile, Malaga now lie in tenth place and are very close to being safe from relegation. The team’s recent form has been key; they now have 21 points in the second half of the league season, one more than the first half having played four matches fewer.
Manager Bernd Schuster was delighted with the performance: “It is among the best home games this year. We fought, we played with intensity, and we also knew how to play good football whilst maintaining possession.”
He also noted the importance of Santa Cruz: “He was amazing. After his injury he has returned like never before and has taken the reins of the team.”