Having lost the crucial 'six-pointer' in Las Palmas on Monday night, Malaga came into Saturday's game facing an altogether different prospect, facing Atlético Madrid, knowing that any result would be a bonus.
However, what they would have to do was keep it tight and they failed to do so; the fans were barely in their seats when Atlético took the lead. Antoine Griezmann was sharp while the Malaga rearguard was flatfooted and latched on the ball as Saúl’s blocked shot from outside the box looped into the area, taking the ball under his spell before dinking it over Roberto.
This early blow rocked Malaga and ruined coach José González’s gameplan immediately.
The Blue and Whites, who started with both Brown Ideye and Youssef En-Nesyri up top in the absence of captain Recio, were hoping to soak up the Atlético pressure and hit them on the counterattack.
González evidently targeted the space in behind the fullbacks, but with the Colchoneros comfortable with their early lead, they were able to soak up anything the Blue and Whites tried to hit them with.
In fact, the only chance they could muster in the first half came from a Roberto Rosales freekick from the lft which Ideye nodded wide at the far post. He was offside in any case.
From that moment, an uncharacteristically quiet La Rosaleda found it hard to get excited with neither keeper having anything to do.
However, this changed in the second half with the introduction of debutant Medhi Lacen in the middle of the park who demonstrated authority in possession and kept Malaga’s play ticking over.
The Blue and Whites came into the game more but still relied on set pieces to create chances.
Rosales produced a world class save out of Jan Oblak with a freekick bound for the top corner. However, besides this opportunity, Malaga were living off scraps in the area, with Ignasi Miquel and Federico Ricca both heading over half chances.
González threw on both Diego Rolán and Samuel in search of the equaliser but a distinct lack of creativity from midfield meant that despite the hosts enjoying possession, they couldn’t get their attacking players in threatening positions.
With five minutes to go, Mehdi Lacen was stretchered off with a serious-looking injury and this ended Malaga’s chances. With ten men, they were forced onto the back foot once again and but for the offside flag, substitute Fernando Torres would have bagged the second when he was played through on goal before chipping the keeper.
Malaga are now rock bottom of the table, seven points from safety, with most of their direct rivals still to play.