Marbella stayed in the hunt for automatic promotion with a nerve-jangling home win over Mancha Real on Sunday. Mehdi Nafti’s side are just three points off top side Cartagena, sitting in third on 44 points, after a clash which had fans on the edge of their seats.
True to their philosophy, Marbella dominated the ball and, true to form, Kike Márquez was his side’s biggest threat, cutting in from the left with a number of efforts on goal. To try and counter his threat, the away team tried to hold a high line to compact the space available to Marbella’s midfield creators. This tactic seemed to work, with Delmonte forced to play the ball long to avoid the press.
For their part, Mancha Real only had one effort from range by Romero which was stopped well by Guille Lara.
The breakthrough, after 41 minutes, came from an unlikely source. With the flair players subdued, it was Lolo, breaking from deep, who controlled before firing in the opener. There was no one in the ground more surprised than the midfielder himself, who had seemingly forgotten how to celebrate.
The outlook, however, changed quickly after the break when the ‘blanquillos’ needlessly conceded a penalty, converted by Airam. Guille Lara guessed the right way but the ball squirmed underneath his body.
Just 12 minutes later, though, and Marbella had their lead back. Kike Márquez got his head onto Andrés Sánchez’s freekick from the left, flicking the ball past Emilio who came for the ball but got nowhere near it.
Marbella then extended their lead, Kike Márquez again the scorer, converting Luis Rioja’s cutback from the right wing. 3-1.
Just when it seemed that the home side were in control, they conceded yet another needless penalty, this time courtesy of Carlos Julio. Airam again stood up to convert, but needed a strong helping hand from keeper Guille Lara. The striker chipped the ball straight down the middle and despite getting two hands to it, the keeper only managed to help it on its way into the back of the net.
With only two and a half minutes stoppage time remaining, Mancha Real went for it. Keeper Emilio went up for a corner with seconds remaining and found himself in the centre of the melée which resulted in the ball being scrambled over the line. Luckily for Nafti’s side, the equaliser was chalked off for a shove in the box.
Next up is a trip to Almeria on Saturday where relegation-threatened El Ejido will provide a tough test. Kick off is at 5pm.