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Ten-man Malaga keep play-off hopes alive

Javi Ontiveros doubles his side's lead in spectacular fashion just before half time.
Javi Ontiveros doubles his side's lead in spectacular fashion just before half time. / Salvador Salas
  • Keidi Bare received his marching orders early in the first half but that didn't prevent Víctor Sánchez's side from putting on their best performance of the season

La Rosaleda has been far from a happy place in the last few months; poor results here are what ultimately cost Juan Ramón Muñiz his job as head coach. However, the fans were given plenty to cheer about as Malaga dragged themselves back into play-off contention on Monday night with a resounding 3-0 victory over fellow promotion contenders Real Oviedo.

On paper, this was the hardest of the Blue and Whites remaining challenges. However, as if we needed any reminder, football is not played on paper. But even when Adrián gave the hosts the lead from the penalty spot after Ibra tangled with Javi Ontiveros on the corner of the area in the 16th minute, few could have predicted what was to follow.

Malaga, who had not won at home since beating Lugo on 19 January, justifiably gave their fans cause to fear the worst when combative midfielder Keidi Bare was sent off shortly after for an inadvertent chest-high boot to an Oviedo midfielder.

However, the hosts were seeming unfazed by this with Adrián slotting seamlessly back into midfield to make up the numbers.

Then, as is quite often the way, the side down to ten stepped up a gear and Ontiveros, who had already struck fear into the visiting defenders after the penalty incident, just before half time had them tied in knots once again. On this occasion, none was able to prevent the winger from tricking his way into shooting range and whipping his strike into the top corner. 2-0.

With a coach of such immense experience as Sergio Egea, one might have expected a reaction from the visitors after the break. However, Malaga's newfound calmness under Víctor Sánchez limited Oviedo to possession in the central third and precious little else.

Munir in the Malaga goal was hardly tested at all; the highlight of his game came in the form of a nasty clash of heads with his own defender, Pau Torres. Luckily both were able to continue.

There was further good news on the injury front: Juankar made it through 60 minutes on his return from long-term injury in the left-back slot, while striker Mamadou Koné was fit enough for a late cameo.

The icing on the cake

Better was still to come, however. Few could believe what they were seeing when right-back Cifu rounded off a classic counter-attack with a delicate chip over the keeper to make it 3-0 - the second victory by this margin in Víctor's fledgling career in the Malaga hotseat.

With disqualified Reus next on the calendar, the Costa side are now guaranteed to remain in the play-off places at the end of match day 39, with just three games left to play.