Home loss to relegation battlers spells the end for Muñiz

Muñiz, in his final game in the Malaga dugout, reacts as his side falls behind.
Muñiz, in his final game in the Malaga dugout, reacts as his side falls behind. / Ñito Salas
  • Defeat to Extremadura was the final straw as the home fans started calling for the coach's head before full time

Nine months and fourteen days after being sworn in as the guardian of the new era for Malaga, a 1-2 home reversal against relegation-threatened Extremadura on Saturday night spelled the end for Juan Ramón Muñiz in the hotseat.

After defeat in Granada left the Blue and Whites out of the running for automatic promotion last week, Malaga, depleted by suspensions in key areas, needed to get three points on the board against Extremadura to avoid slipping out of the play-off places altogether.

However, lacking the leadership of Federico Ricca and Alfred N’Diaye, Malaga struggled to get a foothold against the side occupying the final relegation spot.

The midfield pairing of Erik Morán and Mehdi Lacen, who hadn’t featured since mid-January, were well off the boil and allowed the underdog visitors to control the midfield.

Despite threatening Casto's goal with a header from Adrián and a whipped corner from Álex Mula which almost flew all the way in, it was the visitors who took the lead just after the half-hour mark. Álex Díez’s chipped freekick was stood up perfectly for Lolo to nod past Munir who found himself tempted by the cross but ended up trapped in no-man’s land.

Manuel’s team then almost doubled their lead when Alfredo Ortuño swivelled on the edge of the box but lashed his shot just wide of the far post with the keeper stranded.

As had become a trademark during the Muñiz era, a half-time switch in an attempt to inject new life into the side was made as Jack Harper came on up top in place of Morán.

Adrián, who had come closest to scoring for Malaga in the first half then dropped into a deeper role but this gave greater freedom to Mula who stung the palms of Casto with a piledriver from fully 30 yards.

The equaliser didn’t take long to arrive and the substitution paid almost immediate dividends when Harper flicked Cifu’s cross back across goal for Gustavo Blanco Leschuk to head in the leveller.

But far from setting Extremadura back, the equaliser spurred them on and Giovanni Zarfino almost profited from Munir’s fumble on his own header, but Cifu mopped up before visitors’ captain could tap home the rebound.

Just as the tension around La Rosaleda reached peak levels, disaster struck. It was yet another Álex Díez freekick that did the trick; this time Blanco Leschuk’s poor headed clearance landed perfectly for defender José Antonio Pardo to volley into the bottom corner before Munir could even react.

With just 15 minutes left to go, this proved to be the turning point. What had until this moment been quiet mutterings against the coach, then turned into chants of “Muñiz ¡vete ya!” (Muñiz out now!) reverberating around the stadium.

A freekick from substitute Renato Santos which nestled into the side netting and a first-time strike from 20 yards from Luis Hernández which whizzed past the post were the closest Malaga came to an equaliser.

With club president Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani in the stands, it quickly became clear that the coach’s future was hanging in the balance.

In what turned out to be his final press conference, Muñiz remained resolute in defeat: “I trust in the squad and we will fight until the end,” he said.

That end came sooner than he expected, however.