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Malaga crash out of the Copa del Rey at the first hurdle - again

Almeria's physicality helped them to dominate across the field.
Almeria's physicality helped them to dominate across the field. / Salvador Salas
  • A much-changed side struggled to get a foothold in the game, despite taking the lead just before half time

For the second instalment of a busy week at La Rosaleda, Malaga were in Copa del Rey action on Tuesday evening, receiving Almeria for their second face-off in the space of just two weeks.

Coach Juan Ramón Muñiz, who said his side were taking the competition seriously during the week, nonetheless rung the changes with only keeper Pawel Kieszek and midfielder Medhi Lacen retaining their places from Saturday’s win against Tenerife.

There were first-team debuts for Abdel Aqbar, Héctor and Mamadou Koné, while Juanpi returned from the wilderness to feature for the first time since March.

The Venezuelan, however, looked rusty and spurned the first chance of the game when he dawdled too long before releasing a wayward shot from the edge of the area.

His potency from set pieces was still in evidence, though, and his freekick from the left ought to have been converted by young full-back Iván who stooped the head the ball over when completely unmarked and just six yards out.

It was just before half-time that that first goal arrived. Hicham’s trickery was too much for Ángel Trujillo who upended the young Moroccan, giving away a penalty.

Up stepped Héctor who unerringly slotted the ball into the back of the net, sending Fernando the wrong way.

But Malaga didn't have things all their own way after the break. After Badr Boulahroud's volley was kept out by an unorthodox save from Fernando, the visitors started to command the play a lot better.

Just rewards

An equaliser was their just rewards and it was gifted to them by Malaga keeper Kieszek who spilled the shot into the path of the substitute Sekou on whom defender Abqar decided to take evasive action and nudged off the ball.

Sekou himself stood up and Kieszek looked to have made amends when he got a big hand to the penalty, but the rebound fell for the Senegalese for a tap-in.

Malaga forward Mamadou Koné had a good chance thwarted by Fernando who palmed the ball onto Héctor out for a goalkick with 15 minutes left on the clock.

This would prove to be the last clear chance for the hosts, as Almeria attempted to run down the clock, buying fouls, much to the frustration of the Malaga players who were lucky to escape with just three yellow cards.

Worse was still to come when a freekick from distance was not convincingly dealt with by Kieszek and Chema's cutback was steered in by Adri Montoro.

Despite reverting to a 3-4-3 formation, Almeria's backline dominated in the air as Malaga reverted to route one play. Muñiz's side simply couldn't keep the ball in the visitors' half and for the fourth successive year, Malaga have failed to get past the first hurdle in the Copa del Rey.

Following the game, Malaga coach Muñiz expressed his disappointment at the result, but was keen to look at the wider picture: "Our idea was to get to the next round, but our main target this season is the league."

Having made nine changes to his side, Muñiz added: "It was a good opportunity to give other players a chance to play; in an ideal world we would have the whole squad at the same competitive level."

Young players

The coach also highlighted the importance of the Academy, with four youth players given the chance to get competitive minutes (Abqar, Iván, Hicham and Iván Jaime, who came on as a late substitute.

"The good news is that they've had a chance to play, get minutes. Grassroots football here is going to bear fruits because there are a lot of good players coming through."