Malaga’s unbeaten home run dating back to October came crashing to an end as they lost 0-2 in the Andalusian derby against Real Betis on Monday night.
On the back of an impressive win away to Real Sociedad last week, Malaga fancied their chances against a Betis side who have been on a disastrous run of form, without a win in their last six games.
Malaga thrice could have taken the lead in the opening quarter of an hour. First, defender Paul Baysse headed onto the roof of the net from an inswinging Chory Castro corner; moments later, José Recio, in an almost identical scenario, freed himself of his marker but headed wide from the penalty spot when it was easier to score.
The third chance, though, was possibly the most clear-cut. After Adalberto Peñaranda had his shot blocked, the ball ran nicely for Keko whose strike missed the far post by inches.
The visitors, who enjoyed the possession without creating chances, then hit Malaga with a sucker punch. Attacking the final third for the first time, former Malaga winger Joaquin’s through pass set Sergio León free in behind Diego González and forward’s first-time shot crept under the hand of Roberto to nestle into the centre of the net.
The Malaga stopper more than redeemed himself before half time when Joaquín’s whipped freekick from wide on the left clipped the inside of the post but was clawed out of the goal by the keeper’s outstretched arm. Replays, however, showed that the ball may well have crossed the line. Malaga, nevertheless, could breathe a sigh of relief.
The reprieve wouldn’t last long. Having lost central midfielder Adrián to injury, the Blue and Whites looked disorganised having brought on forward Diego Rolán and upsetting the natural balance of the side.
This disorganisation continued after the break and the visitors capitalised. A neat ball into Antonio Barragán on the right side of the area was sent straight back across the face of goal for Víctor Camarasa to head into a virtually empty net.
Malaga could have replied immediately but Borja Bastón flashed his header just wide of the far post.
Substitute Javi Ontiveros injected life down the left-hand side and almost replicated his phenomenal strike against Deportivo last season, minutes after replacing Keko.
With just 66 minutes on the clock, Malaga head coach Míchel used his final change, going all out and bringing on yet another striker in the form of Youssef En-Nesyri.
However, the Moroccan was never given a sniff by a resilient Betis side who showed they were much more savvy than their adversaries, closing the spaces and time wasting to brilliant effect.
Malaga had all of the possession for the closing 15 minutes but failed to create a single chance. Betis, for their part, could have bagged a third deep in stoppage time when the hosts’ defence opened up for Nahuel to square across the face of the goal but none of his waiting teammates could apply the finishing touch.
The win lifts Real Betis to a lofty 8th place, with just six points separating them and 17th–placed Deportivo. Malaga, who could have moved to within a point of safety face a six-pointer against Deportivo Alavés on Thursday night.