Substitutes combine to make it two wins from two for Malaga

Gustavo Blanco scored the winner with ten minutes to go.
Gustavo Blanco scored the winner with ten minutes to go. / Salvador Salas
  • Gustavo Blanco scored with ten minutes to go, shortly before a nervous closing period when the hosts went down to ten men

Malaga maintained their hundred per cent record for the campaign by seeing off Alcorcón in an incident-packed encounter at La Rosaleda on Friday night. Substitutes Javi Ontiveros and Gustavo Blanco combined to bag the winner with ten minutes to go, before both sides lost men to red cards.

Fresh off what was also a late win, 2-1 in Lugo last weekend, Juan Ramón Muñiz made just one change to his starting line-up, bringing in goalscorer Juankar on the left in place of Ontiveros who was hooked at half time in Galicia.

There was no place for new signings Dani Pacheco and Mamadou Koné in the squad as the club must first ship out players so that they can complete their registration and comply with salary cap regulations.

A first-division crowd

Backed by a healthy crowd of almost 20,000, the hosts got off to the stronger start on their home league debut, maintaining possession and pressing from the front.

The main protagonist in this was young Scotsman Jack Harper, starting up front for the second consecutive game. It was his tenacity which set up the first chance of the half when he fought to win back possession near the corner flag before laying off the ball to deposed captain José Recio whose side-footed effort flew into row Z.

Harper again was involved in the 15th minute as he robbed the defender of the ball before opening up on his favoured left foot. His shot, however, was deflected into the air and headed clear.

However, the Blue and Whites failed to maintain their control on the game and Alcorcón started to feel their way in with a few sighters - albeit nothing to trouble Moroccan keeper Munir.

The turning point

Early in the second half, Muñiz made changes in attack and crowded Alcorcón's half with the introductions of Hicham and Gustavo Blanco Leschuk, in place of the ineffectual Renato Santos and Adrián. The focus on width disappeared and the hosts took a much more direct approach as the Madrid side held a deep line.

Blanco's first chance came to him within minutes when Hicham's cutback spun up and leant itself to an acrobatic volley. His effort, however, was well held by Dani Jiménez who hardly put a glove wrong all game.

But when the game's decisive moment came, he was helpless. Substitute Javi Ontiveros did well to resist the temptation to shoot when faced with three defenders and instead took the ball to the byline before chipping it to the near post for Blanco who steered his header into the top right-hand corner with just ten minutes to go.

Hicham also came close, whistling an effort from fully 25 yards inches past the left-hand post.

Late drama

With the seconds counting down, nerves started to set in and when a counter-attack for Alcorcón was on, Ontiveros chased down his man before wrecklessly sliding in and earning himself a red card in stoppage time. Carlos Bellvís also picked up a second yellow for his reaction in the aftermath.

Despite this drama, there was little time left for anything else. "At the end of the day, a win's a win, no matter how it comes," said a satisfied Juan Ramón Muñiz following the game.

Having claimed six out of a possible six points, Muñiz praised his players' attitude: "The team has always accepted responsibility [since I've been here] and we are reaping the rewards of all the hard work put in during the week."

Competition for places

Even without new signings Dani Pacheco and Mamadou Koné in the equation, competition within the squad is certainly high. When asked about the impact of his substitutes, Muñiz highlighted the overall quality of the squad: "I really like this team. When the game is over, they've got nothing left to give and whenever there are changes, the level either stays the same or goes up.

"Individuals can surprise you, but the most important thing is the team and every week we have to give everything on the pitch."

Jack Harper, who will be looking to keep his place in the side for Monday's trip to Almeria, echoed the sentiments of his coach. The Scotland under-19 international told SUR in English: "We've got a team that knows how to suffer and we know that the goal will come. We saw that last week from losing 1-0 and turning the game around. I think there's going to be good things coming this year."

Harper, raised on the Costa del Sol, said of his home debut: "To play in front of all the people, all the 'malagueños', was an honour."