The ecstatic celebrations after Armando Sadiku nodded home Malaga’s second goal against Deportivo la Coruña on Sunday showed just how desperately the Andalusians needed these three points, and how much it meant to a team who had worked so hard to get them.
Although the two sides were level on points before this weekend, one
wouldn’t have known it on the evidence of Sunday’s game. Malaga were far better from the start. The immediacy of the club’s situation seemed to have sunk in, and produced a grit and determination that Depor found hard to deal with.
Malaga’s pressing forced the hosts to resort to hopeful long balls which failed to trouble the visitors, and also exposed the nerves of a Depor defence which never looked assured at any point in the game. The visitors easily could have been ahead within the opening 20 minutes, with Adrián, Sadiku and Renato Santos all passing up opportunities of varying quality.
Malaga’s coach, Víctor Sánchez del Amo, was visibly frustrated when his side failed to capitalise on another breakaway chance on 38 minutes. As he admitted after the match, the club’s recent visit to Zaragoza, where Malaga created chance after chance but were not clinical enough to take a deserved three points, was still fresh in his mind.
Mikel gives Malaga the lead
The visitors could ill afford a repeat, and their persistence paid off just a few minutes later, as the ever-lively Antoñín stooped to redirect a corner to the back post where Mikel was waiting to translate his side’s first-half dominance into a lead with a simple left-footed finish.
Malaga nearly made the perfect start to the second half when Cristo produced some excellent footwork but could only toe-poke a tame effort at the keeper. The Blue and Whites had clearly been instructed to sit back and wait for opportunities to counter in the second half, and this afforded Depor the opportunity to assert themselves a little more in the game.
A tame header from Victor Mollejo, however, was all that the hosts had to show for their efforts, and at the other end, Sadiku had two glorious chances to put the game to bed. His failure to take either left one wondering whether Malaga might currently find themselves in a more secure league position if they had a more clinical forward.
Late second from Sadiku
Nevertheless, the Albanian would be given one more chance still, this one practically an invitation to score from Depor stopper Dani Giménez, and he did not waste it. When Giménez rushed out to clear a ball which Sadiku was chasing more in hope than expectation, he terribly misjudged his header, and left the striker with the simple task of nodding the ball into an empty net.
Malaga still have a long way to climb; they remain in the drop-zone, ahead only of Racing Santander and Depor themselves; and their opponents next Saturday, Real Oviedo, are beginning to string some victories together themselves. But when Sadiku’s header bobbled over the line, none of that mattered. The club’s second-worst Segunda run was over, and there was hope again.