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Sergi Darder's early strike was enough to settle the tie.
Sergi Darder's early strike was enough to settle the tie. / Salvador Salas

Míchel out of ideas as Malaga's slide to Segunda continues

  • Fans turn on the head coach and owner Sheikh Al-Thani after another lifeless defeat leaves the side joint bottom of La Liga

The new year has not brought a change of fortunes. Malaga were just as limp and lifeless as they were two weeks ago when Espanyol visited La Rosaleda on Monday night. The visitors, who until that moment hadn't won on the road, picked up their first win away from Catalonia, courtesy of Malaga old boy Sergi Darder. His first-half goal was enough to see off the Blue and Whites who dominated the subsequent possession though without ever looking likely to score.

Manuel Iturra made his second club debut on a cold winter night on the south coast and was perhaps the only bright spark for Míchel's team which struggled for quality possession in dangerous areas. Adalberto Peñaranda toiled until his withdrawal after 60 minutes, but could only draw the simplest of saves out of Pau López in the visitors' goal.

It was an early goal which settled it. As early as the sixth minute, Sergi Darder, on his return to La Rosaleda, showed his old fans what they were missing as he followed up play and latched on perfectly to Sergio García's knock-down to slot past Roberto at his right-hand post.

The pressure has increased on head coach Míchel.

The pressure has increased on head coach Míchel. / Salvador Salas

With the onus strongly on the home side in this relegation six-pointer, Malaga fought back, albeit with little conviction. Keko twice set up chances in the penalty area with a cut-back from the byline but neither Chory Castro nor Adalberto Peñaranda could trouble the keeper.

Inevitable changes from Malaga head coach Míchel did not provoke the inevitable response. Despite throwing on Borja Bastón, Javi Ontiveros and later Juanpi, only a weak header from En-Nesyri -with almost half an hour still on the clock- came remotely near to finding the equaliser.

With the club's unhalting slide towards Segunda, fans once more turned on the bench, calling for Míchel's dismissal, with owner Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani, absent once again, also subjected to chants of "¡vete ya!".

Now rock bottom of the table, five points from safety, the brief optimism around Malaga, generated by the winter break, has quickly dissipated and the realisation has set in that, without drastic change, the club is in deep trouble.