This Malaga side feels different, yet the outcome is still the same. Villarreal, for three quarters of the game, offered nothing special and yet, in the blink of an eye, two defensive lapses gifted them the win.
Head coach Míchel said before the game that he would most likely stick with the same eleven that saw off Celta Vigo last week - and he did. Recio and Adrián continued as the 'double pivot' while Adalberto Peñaranda continued as a false nine, drifting into spaces in order to drag defenders out of their ranks and leave space in behind.
However, he was left isolated in the opening exchanges as Villarreal, as is typical under new coach Javi Calleja, sprayed the ball about in the centre of the park through Roberto Soriano, Chuca and former Malaga man Pablo Fornals. This control, though, rarely manifested itself in chances as Míchel's men, with two solid banks of four, limited the space available and slowly but surely, the balance of the encounter started to shift. In fact, by the midway point in the first half, Malaga were the dominant side and even had a couple of chances to open the scoring.
Villarreal restored their control after the break, but again came up against a well drilled opponent. Once breached, Roberto stood in the way, alert to the danger to parry away an effort from the youngster Chuca.
At the other end, almost immediately afterwards, it was the turn of Barbosa who tipped Peñaranda's header past the post at full stretch. At this stage Malaga appeared to have their opponents where they wanted them - under control and far from their own penalty area.
Calleja had to turn to his bench in search of answers. Denis Cheryshev was the first to enter the fray but wasn't half as effective as Nicola Sansone who operated in close proximity to forwards Carlos Bacca and Cédric Bakambu. Minutes after his introduction, he had the ball in the net.
The tactical shift unsettled Malaga's defence, drawing Juankar too far into the middle, allowing Mario Gaspar to get his shot off, deflected by Paul Baysse into the path of Bacca who did fantastically well to loft the ball back into the six-yard box for Sansone to head his side into the lead.
As was the case at the Sánchez Pizjuán a couple of weeks ago, a capitulation ensued, with Sansone bagging his second just eight minutes later - a through pass carving the Malaga defence apart and the Italian tucking the ball past Roberto in the one-on-one.
From this point on, Malaga offered next to nothing in response bar a couple of sprints from substitute Youssef En-Nesyri. This is an alarming trend that will need to be rectified soon, starting against Deportivo after the international break.