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Goal fest leaves Malaga with work to do to get to the play-off final

Munir allows Borja Valle's effort to squeeze in at the near post.
Munir allows Borja Valle's effort to squeeze in at the near post. / ÑITO SALAS
  • Goalkeeping errors gifted Dépor a two-goal advantage in the semi-finals

  • But two away goals and plenty of chances passed up still give Malaga hope ahead of the return tie at La Rosaleda on Saturday

Malaga's quest for promotion was dealt a set-back on Wednesday night as the side fell to a 4-2 defeat at Riazor in the first leg of their play-off semi-final against Deportivo.

Fresh from a well-deserved rest, Víctor Sánchez restored six players to his starting eleven: Javi Ontiveros, Gustavo Blanco Leschuk, Pau Torres, Keidi Bare, Adrián and Munir.

Unlike Alfred N'Diaye, the latter, called up by Morocco for the upcoming African Cup of Nations, was given permission to remain with the Malaga squad for the game. However, given the level of performance, many will be left wondering if it was worth the effort.

Munir was at fault for three of the Deportivo goals, giving his teammates an uphill challenge for the return leg at La Rosaleda on Saturday evening.

It started so brightly for the Blue and Whites, though. They took the lead in the 14th minute after Javi Ontiveros whipped a cross in from the left for defender Luis Hernández to nod into the ground and beyond the reach of keeper Dani Giménez.

However, when a clumsy foul by Federico Ricca gifted Dépor a penalty three minutes later, Carlos Fernández made no mistake from the spot, sending Munir the wrong way.

Ontiveros, the league's in-form player right now, was always bound to have an influence on this game and in the 37th minute he displayed his undoubted quality once more. Cutting in off the left flank, as he has hundreds of times before, there was no stopping him unleashing a Beckham-esque thunderbolt into the top right-hand corner. Giménez had no chance.

With a 2-1 lead away from home, Malaga were the much more contented side at half time but the panorama quickly changed in the second 45.

Just ten minutes after the restart, the scores were level once more. Pedro Sánchez smashed home Fede's low cross from the edge of the box but, despite the power, Munir will be disappointed not to have pushed it away having got both hands to the ball.

The Morocco stopper, likewise, was left stranded in no-man's land just minutes later as Dépor took the lead for the first time. This time Carlos Fernández nodded the ball over the line from just under the crossbar as the keeper failed to get anywhere near Fede's dinked cross.

Things went from bad to worse for Munir in the 78th minute. Borja Valle took everyone by surprise taking on the shot from 30 yards, including the keeper who allowed the ball to squirm in under his arm at the near post.

With a two-goal deficit to overturn, Malaga will not be too downhearted as Wednesday's tie was very open and both sides had plenty of chances. Next time out, if they keep the back door shut, they have every chance of progressing to the final