Malaga are closing in on a return to the Primera División. This is not so much shown by their results and their points haul (six out of six) but also their superiority in front of both teams they have faced so far in the promotion play-offs.
During Sunday's tie, they were far superior to SPA of Alicante, a testament to the methods of their trainer Antonio Contreras. Malaga’s promotion could be confirmed as early as Sunday 27 May if they win in Arguineguín (Gran Canaria). For this to happen, Fermarguín would have to defeat or draw with SPA (while Malaga have a week off next weekend).
Unlike in their first play-off match, Malaga overwhelmed their rivals from the first whistle. Free from the nerves that gripped the team in the first stage of this decisive phase of the season, the Blue and Whites came to overwhelm, to intimidate, and succeeded with a winning strategy based on pressure and determination.
Adriana had two excellent chances early on. In the first, she had an excellent opportunity to score but inexplicably missed the target, and afterwards Paula, who spotted the space, sent an excellent ball into the box, but the captain’s rushed shot sailed over the goal.
The first half was a more unpredictable affair than the match played in Cártama a week before. Malaga took the initiative and dominated possession, but SPA proved that they were also capable of posing a threat.
Marina Martí was perhaps the best player for the side from Alicante; she came very close to assisting after made a measured pass to Claudia, who could only find the post from only a few yards out. Pepa failed to capitalise on the rebound.
That was in the 18th minute, and although neither side had fully settled into the match, SPA would not get any another clear goalscoring opportunity.
Malaga continued to put pressure on their opponents, with runs from Shiv and energy of Meri causing problems.
The latter, facilitated the first goal from the right wing. After several attempts, she managed to control the ball and beat Laura with a high left-footed shot.
The best plays from SPA Alicante, a team that hasn’t played in the Primera since 2001 but has been involved in four out of the five previous play-offs, came at the start of the second half. Malaga struggled to deal with their increased tempo after the break. Claudia and Marina Martí both had shots saved by Chelsea, but Malaga soon regained control of the pitch.
Shiv, who seemed short of other options, took a shot from over thirty metres away and forced Laura to put the ball behind for a corner. It was from a later corner that Malaga would seal their victory; Adriana’s cross found María Ruiz, whose powerful headed effort found the mark.
The striker from Almáchar had spent just one minute on the pitch, after being substituted on for Sheila, before scoring. Many think that this player, one of the team’s captains despite her young age (17), is set to have an excellent career as a football player. Although she stands at just 1.61m tall, she has demonstrated that this does not take away from her heading ability.
In the closing stages the tempo of the match tapered off and Malaga’s control became less absolute. Contreras instructed his side to play more defensively in order to see out the game, and SPA seemed to have lost any kind of conviction to win the match.
The final whistle was celebrated as if Malaga had been promoted. The future looks bright; if Malaga keep playing this well they will achieve promotion and usher in a bright new era for women’s football.