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A perfect start for Malaga against all odds

The Malaga players celebrate with their fans after Adrián's late goal.
The Malaga players celebrate with their fans after Adrián's late goal. / Agencia Lof
  • Despite fielding just seven professionals during the second half, Malaga picked up all three points from their opening league game in Santander

Crisis? What crisis?

Malaga got their league campaign off to a perfect start on Saturday evening, picking up all three points on the road in Santander.

Despite Racing being much the better side throughout the contest, the Blue and White completed the ultimate smash and grab when Adrián nodded home Renato Santos’ cross with just five minutes left to go.

Despite Javi Ontiveros’ move to Villarreal being given the go-ahead on Friday, Víctor Sánchez del Amo had to do without new signing Shinji Okazaki and full-back Cifu as they couldn’t be registered in time to play. Instead, Malaga started the game with just nine professionals in the squad, eight of whom started.

Such was the shortage of players, Víctor employed a formation not seen before during his reign, employing a back five, with 19-year-old winger Hugo Vallejo starting up top in the absence of a recognised forward. The teenager was joined in the starting line-up by 18-year-old Ismael Casas, making his debut at right-back.

However, when Luis Hernández went off injured in the 23rd minute, Dani Pacheco was forced to enter the fray and the plan was turned on its head.

As expected given the disjointed nature of their pre-season campaign and the player shortage, Malaga struggled to get a foothold in the game, with Racing’s attacking trio of Enzo Lombardo, Karim Yoda and Alberto Cayarga keeping the visitors on the back foot.

Juankar’s hooked effort over the crossbar after an unconvincing punch from Enzo Zidane early in the first half seemed like a distant memory at half time after the hosts dominated possession and kept Malaga camped in their own half.

Things went from bad to worse when David Lombán also was forced off by injury: his replacement, Luis Muñoz, left a total of seven professionals on the field.

This galvanised Racing who struck the woodwork almost immediately after the restart when Lombardo cut in from the left on his stronger right foot before leaving Munir scrambling across his goal.

Centre-back Iñaki Olaortua also looked certain to score minutes later when his volley flashed past the post after being picked out from the corner kick, completely unmarked on the penalty spot.

Despite being under the cosh for two-thirds of the game, Malaga, and especially Dani Pacheco, started to come to life. The former Liverpool and Norwich man brought a fine save out of Zidane after he controlled a long ball over his shoulder before unleashing a fierce half-volley.

Pacheco brought an easier save from the on-loan Real Madrid keeper moments later as the angle started to close up.

Vallejo, who did well despite being mostly isolated up top, then almost found the breakthrough when he bundled his way through the Racing backline, only to have his effort come back out off the post after nutmegging Zidane.

Just as Malaga looked to have passed up their chance to win the game, Renato’s hopeful hooked cross into the area landed perfectly to be flicked into the bottom corner off the head of last season’s top scorer Adrián.

The travelling Malaga fans could hardly believe their eyes as they rushed to the front of the stand to celebrate with their new captain.

The midfielder told broadcaster #Vamos following the game: “This was a very important win, especially in terms of morale. Everyone can see how our situation is, but we can’t make excuses and everyone available will give their all.”