surinenglish

Malaga's 100% home record ends with defeat in Andalusian derby

Víctor Díaz (left) celebrates after Montoro's deflected strike beats Munir in the Malaga goal.
Víctor Díaz (left) celebrates after Montoro's deflected strike beats Munir in the Malaga goal. / Ñito Salas
  • The Blue and Whites are down to fifth after suffering back-to-back defeats

After seven consecutive league wins at La Rosaleda, defeat in the Andalusian derby against Granada on Saturday afternoon brought an end to Malaga's 100 per cent home record - the only one remaining in Spain's second tier.

Ángel Montoro's second-half goal pushed Granada above Malaga in the league table as Juan Ramón Muñiz's side fell to back-to-back defeats for the first time this season, denting hopes of an automatic return to the top flight.

Jack Harper was back in the starting eleven after missing the previous five games and this meant that Muñiz could once again deploy his favoured 4-4-2 formation after experimenting, albeit unsuccessfully with Juanpi in the number ten role in Extremadura last week.

However, Malaga's forwards were limited to very few efforts on goal on the day by a combination of organised defending from the visitors and a distinct lack of creativity from midfield.

The absence of Adrián was particularly felt as Malaga lost the ball on 163 occasions (a season high) and struggled to regain possession, doing so on just 50 occasions, compared to 69 a week earlier.

The hosts' best chance in the first half fell to top scorer Gustavo Blanco Leschuk whose attempted near-post flick from Alfred N'Diaye's low cross from the right was blocked by keeper Rui Silva.

N'Diaye was then almost culpable for giving away a goal when he clumsily lost possession deep in his own half but goalkeeper Munir came to his rescue to block Adrián Ramos' shot towards the near post.

For the third successive match, Muñiz made a half-time substitution. Clearly unhappy with his wide players' contribution, Javi Ontiveros made way for Dani Pacheco, himself coming in from the cold after not appearing for two games.

This did not improve things for the home side who went behind less than ten minutes after the restart when Ángel Montoro's strike from the edge of the area trickled past Munir who was deceived by the deflection off Mehdi Lacen. This was just the second goal Malaga have conceded at La Rosaleda this season.

Having not seen his wide players lay on a pass for a strike on goal since Renato's intervention against Gimnàstic two games previously, Muñiz made two further changes on the wings in a bid to open up Granada. Renato and Sead Haksabanovic entered the fray but barring N'Diaye's wayward strike from the edge of the box, Malaga rarely worried Rui Silva between the sticks.

Quick to play down talk of a crisis after the recent downturn in results, Muñiz insisted following the game that it would be "unfair" to say that Granada were the better team. "It was a very even game," he said. "Both teams worked very hard and gave everything on the pitch. We came up against a side which worked very hard in defence and stopped us from creating a lot of chances."

Muñiz leapt to the defence of his players, saying that their influence was limited by "defensive discipline" of the opposition.

Despite two losses on the bounce, the head coach said: "It's important not to go overboard. We've always said it wasn't going to be easy - quite the opposite. It's a long campaign and there will be bumps along the way."

Malaga currently sit in fifth place and face two difficult away days in Mallorca and Oviedo, either side of a derby at home against Cadiz, before the Christmas break. "We must turn this around as quick as possible," said full-back Cifu.