Players arguing during the final stages of the match. :: ÑITO SALAS
This was meant to be the match that would secure Malaga’s mathematical survival in La Liga. However, Elche ruined the party with a 0-1 victory on Saturday afternoon.
It was over half a year since Elche last won away from home and they could not have done it at a better time. Prior to the match they were five points below Malaga, hovering perilously close to the relegation zone and they had more to play for.
It was a scrappy match, particularly in the second half as Elche players were looking to waste as much time as possible. Dangerous tackles were flying in and a number of altercations took place between players. At times it was embarrassing to watch and the home supporters were understandably disappointed by the performance.
The visitors went ahead after just 11 minutes with a spectacular goal. Malaga were looking to break following an Elche corner, but a misplaced pass by Samu allowed Rodrigues to take a risk and charge forward. The Cape Verdean’s first-time shot from 25 yards flew into the top corner.
Santa Cruz had a good chance to level the match after being played in on goal, but his near-post shot was well blocked by Manu Herrera.
After the break the match lost its rhythm. Jesús Gámez and Camacho both left the pitch with injuries. The interruptions were constant. Botía was given a direct red card after kicking the ball against Iakovenko while he was lying on the floor. There was a series of poorly-timed challenges. The Blue and Whites had a penalty appeal turned down in the final minutes.
In spite of having 73 per cent of possession they were unable to break down the Elche defence. Malaga have failed to score in 17 of their 36 matches this season. Only Getafe have a worse record.
Schuster defended his team: “It is not a problem of enthusiasm. The players were running on empty, they ran even more than during other matches but they did not play well. So it is necessary to make more of an effort.”
Captain Weligton gave his opinion of the game:“There are games in which everything goes well, and others in which nothing goes our way. It has been like this the whole season. The early goal knocked us down a little, and afterwards we saw that the opposition didn’t want to play football.
“Last week we had a big opportunity against Getafe and now we have lost another. It hurts. It hurts because we could have secured our survival at home,” said the Brazilian.
Malaga now face the difficult task on Sunday of travelling to face title contenders Atlético Madrid. The team will be hoping that other results go their way.