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Comeback win helps Malaga consolidate play-off place

The players celebrate Adrián’s goal which secured the fourth win of the new coach’s reign.
The players celebrate Adrián’s goal which secured the fourth win of the new coach’s reign. / Salvador Salas
  • Three second-half goals takes Malaga's tally to eleven in five games

The promotion charge continues. Malaga came back from a goal down to secure a resounding 3-1 win over Real Zaragoza on Friday night, moving them one step closer to securing a spot in the play-offs for promotion back to La Liga.

In the week that automatic promotion mathematically moved out of reach, Víctor named an attacking line-up, replacing the suspended Keidi Bare with Álex Mula in the middle of the park.

However, within the opening ten minutes, the optimism of the new era quickly dissipated as Pep Biel opened the scoring for the visitors in a manner with which fans were all too familiar in the latter days of Juan Ramón Muñiz’s reign. After Giorgi Papunashvili bulldozed his way through the centre of the park with relative ease, the ball broke to the young midfielder who cut in onto his right foot before his strike squirmed into the corner past Munir, who blamed the turf in front of him.

Unlike the Malaga of old, though, this Malaga side tried to fight back with purposeful possession, waiting for an opening to present itself. Zaragoza, however, had other ideas and remained resolute in their organisation and positioning, and limited their hosts to long shots.

Javi Ontiveros’ effort from 25 yards out was the best of the first half but was met by the fists of Cristian Álvarez who reacted well to not be beaten by the swerve imparted on the ball.

At the other end, just before the break, Cifu was very fortunate not to concede a penalty after his clumsy challenge sent James Igbekeme tumbling, but the threatrics of the Nigerian did him no favours with the referee.

Malaga’s patient approach continued into the second half and as the away side’s concentration started to wane, more openings could be found; just eight minutes after the restart, the scores were level.

Juankar, making only his second appearance since rupturing his cruciate knee ligaments in September, surged down the left-hand side before whipping in a cross for Renato Santos to tuck in his second of the season at the back post.

Just seven minutes later, Malaga took the lead for the first time in the game. Again, the route to goal came down the left-hand side with Adrián’s skewed volley falling nicely for Gustavo Blanco Leschuk to slide the ball into the net.

The game then descended into a personal battle between the Zaragoza keeper and Malaga. Shot after shot rained in on the visitors’ goal, with Cristian putting on a brave face until, in the 74th minute, Adrián finished off the game once and for all with a well-timed volley from the edge of the area, leaving the keeper rooted to the spot.

The victory, the fourth in Víctor’s six games in charge so far, leaves Malaga well placed to launch an assault on third place - a position which would ensure that the second leg of the play-off will be at home.