In Spain, they call it ‘the English average’ - if you win your home games and draw your away games, you’re certain to gain promotion to La Liga.
At La Rosaleda, there is no one better than Malaga this year, but on the road there is an increasing cause for concern. Defeat in Extremadura on Sunday afternoon extended Malaga’s winless run away from home to six games to leave them outside the automatic promotion places.
This was despite the visitors getting off to the better start, with Javi Ontiveros causing trouble with his set-piece delivery and Renato Santos forcing a good early save from Álvaro Fernández on the volley from a tight angle.
However, in the 32nd minute, the goal which ultimately proved to be their undoing arrived. With plenty of covering defenders, goalkeeper Munir needlessly came flying out of his area to sweep up a long pass. The Morocco international ended up getting caught up in traffic, failing to take control of the situation and gifting Enric Gallego a free shot on goal which was he hit against his own player’s legs. Unfortunately for Malaga, though, Kike Márquez picked up the scraps, squeezed his way through Iván, then lashed the ball past Munir who had just about scrambled back to his goal line.
This, as well as losing Renato to injury, came as a blow to Malaga who had to muddle their way through to half time to avoid any further damage.
Hicham replaced the Portuguese on the wing while Héctor was introduced up top at half time in place of Juanpi, himself also making a comeback from the treatment room. The changes seemed to galvanise the visitors who could have equalised through Gustavo Blanco Leschuk’s header which was pushed onto the post by the keeper. Héctor, who was following in to get the rebound, was intelligently eased out of the way by the defender who showed much superior strength.
Pau Torres came close with his header from another whipped free kick from Ontiveros who himself went straight for goal with another from a central area which sailed metres past the left-hand post.
The winger was at the centre of all of Malaga’s good play and created what looked like a sure-fire equaliser for Blanco Leschuk who sent his diving header wide from just five yards out when hitting the target seemed like the much easier task.
The already makeshift Malaga side, thanks to injuries, became even more so when coach Juan Ramón Muñiz made his final change, bringing on holding midfielder Medhi Lacen for right-back Iván. This pushed left-footed centre-half Diego González to right-back and box-to-box midfielder Alfred N’Diaye into the centre of defence.
None of these changes made any difference, however, as Extremadura, in two compact banks of four, succeeded in frustrating play and winding the clock down.
With Deportivo and Alcorcón both winning, Malaga now sit in third place, four points off top spot.