surinenglish

Keepers to the rescue as points are shared in promotion battle

Munir saved the day for Malaga with an 81st-minute save to deny Borja Valle in a one-on-one.
Munir saved the day for Malaga with an 81st-minute save to deny Borja Valle in a one-on-one. / Ñito Salas
  • A world-class stop apiece from Munir and Dani Giménez in the final ten minutes meant that neither Malaga nor Dépor could claim the win

  • Despite drawing their last three home matches, the Blue and Whites are just two points off top spot

A third home draw on the trot felt like yet another opportunity missed for Malaga who could have widened the gap on their promotion rivals and returned to the top of the table with a win against Deportivo La Coruña on Sunday.

The match had all the makings of a classic. With hundreds of fans lining the street outside La Rosaleda to welcome the team bus hours before kickoff and a record attendance for this season (22,414; 126 more than the derby against Granada), the significance of the fixture would very much have been on the players' minds as they came out onto the pitch.

Neither side were able to get a stranglehold on the game as both packed the midfield with the intention of not ceding possession. Malaga coach Juan Ramón Muñiz persisted with his 4-1-4-1 shape while Dépor's Natxo González on occasions opted for no wide men at all.

What this meant was that neither side was able to strike on the counterattack as they, especially in Malaga's case, got men behind the ball then only had one man ahead to aim for.

The only real sniff of a breakthrough came just before half time when Dani Pacheco's volley appeared to strike the arm of David Simón but the referee waved for play to continue, despite impassioned appeals from the Malaga players.

In the second half, Muñiz's men surprised their opponents with a high press which almost paid off immediately. It was Keidi Bare, restored to the team in place of Erik Morán after completing his suspension, who forced keeper Dani Giménez into giving the ball away straight to Gustavo Blanco Leschuk but the forward, now 16 games without a goal, fired straight at the keeper when he had practically the whole goal to aim at.

The Argentinian was hooked off almost immediately but his replacement, Yevhen Seleznov, equally offered little dynamism to the side as he continues to struggle to adapt to life in Spain, despite becoming a fan favourite since his move in January.

At the other end, the league's top scorer Quique demonstrated that he is in a rich vein of form by easily skipping past Iván before seeing his shot sharply saved by Munir, diving low to his left.

Munir was called upon again with just ten minutes to go as he spectacularly blocked Borja Valle's shot after a flicked header left him one-on-one with the winner in his sights.

Just before full time, it was the turn of Munir's opposite number to win plaudits as he flicked substitute Jack Harper's rasping effort around his right-hand post to preserve the point.

"Looking at the negatives never gets you anywhere," said Muñiz post match. "We have to be very happy with the point because we were playing against a team which will finish the season very high up. However, it's always a shame when you don't pick up all three points when you've played so well."