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Fourth consecutive win boosts La Rosaleda feel-good factor

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Javi Ontiveros is congratulated by his teammates after giving Malaga the lead. / Salvador Salas

  • Malaga's comfortable 3-0 win saw them overtake their opponents in the table on a disastrous night for the Europa League semi-finalists, who had head coach Eduardo Berizzo sent off

Malaga made it four wins on the trot after sweeping aside a lethargic Celta Vigo side in a result that saw the hosts climb above their opponents in the league table.

Míchel again opted for a 4-3-3 formation, but his side and the visitors both initially struggled for any real fluency. Nevertheless, up against a side exhausted from their Europa League semi-final exertions, Míchel's side would create all the clear-cut chances in the half.

Shortly after the tenth minute, Pablo Fornals slipped in Sandro, who cut back onto his left foot but was denied by a strong hand from Celta goalkeeper Sergio Álvarez.

A lethargic pace set in to the game and both teams seemed unable to break from what seemed quite rigid structures. It was therefore long-distance efforts that were attempted, and seconds after Josep Señé dragged his shot wide of Carlos Kameni’s right-hand post, Sandro collected an intercepted Fornals pass, but only endeavoured to strike the ball into the side netting.

A minute later the Spain U21 international was in the thick of the action again, but Sergio Álvarez was on hand to deny his near-post flick from Federico Ricca’s cross. The hosts were undoubtedly getting closer to the breakthrough, and it eventually came in the 26th minute when Javi Ontiveros held off the challenge of Pape Cheikh Diop, before firing past Sergio Álvarez at his near post with his weaker left foot.

The hosts were now in the ascendancy and created further chances to double their lead before the break, but two Celta defenders closed in to block a shot from the advancing Jony, before a poor back pass allowed Sandro in, but Sergio Álvarez was equal to him.

Celta had enjoyed some sustained possession in the latter stages of the first half, and were nearly rewarded early in the second when Marcelo Díaz struck the post from a free-kick.

However, Celta's defensive frailties persisted and just over ten minutes into the second period, Gustavo Cabral brought down Sandro, who had latched on to Ontiveros' clipped pass, in the box and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

Recio sent the goalkeeper the wrong way from the resulting penalty, a goal which allowed Malaga to sit back and attempt to hit the fatigued visitors on the break.

Malaga's new approach did yield some chances for the visitors, but Sergi Gómez flicked his header from a freekick straight at Kameni before substitute Andrew Hjulsager curled over from Pape's pass.

Ontiveros and Sandro were an everpresent threat on the counter attack, and the duo who carved out the penalty incident combined again, but the latter failed to find the far corner with his strike.

The game did seem to be petering out, but ten minutes from the end Celta head coach Eduardo Berizzo was involved in an altercation with Recio on the touchline, an incident which saw the former sent off and Camacho and Recio booked.

Ontiveros was replaced by Keko for the final few minutes, and the substitute carried on from where his teammate had left off.

A minute after Pablo Fornals failed to convert on the stretch after Sandro had inadvertently played the ball into his path, Keko skipped past Facundo Roncaglia but disappointingly chipped his effort straight at Sergio Álvarez in the one-on-one.

The hosts would eventually get their third right at the death. Shortly after Kameni had saved from Claudio Beauvue from point-blank range, Keko's defence-splitting pass found substitute Juankar, who presented a tap-in to Sandro, who added some gloss to a victory which took Malaga 11th in the table.

Malaga now face a trip to the north of the country, with Real Sociedad awaiting them on Sunday. Kick-off is at 8pm.