A glum Víctor watched from the stands as his side fell to a late Yuri goal against Ponferradina on Friday night. The game proved something of a reality check for a Malaga who “only lasted 10 minutes” in León, in the sober assessment of SUR’s Sergio Cortés. The result put an end to Malaga’s recent renaissance, placing them back in the drop zone after not even a week outside of it.
The game’s opening stages, however, augured well for the visitors, who started with the same urgency and intensity that they had showed in their recent victories over Deportivo la Coruña and Real Oviedo.
This season’s revelation Antoñín had the first real chance, nutmegging Franco Russo before hitting a low drive from the edge of the box that the keeper did well to save. Hicham’s dynamism also earned him several opportunities, but his inexperience was evident in his wayward finishing.
Malaga stall after fast start
Malaga’s dominance soon faded, and the match settled into a dull monotony, with the ball spending a lot of time in the air, and neither midfield showing the requisite quality to get the game under control. The hosts eased their way into the game, and began to forge their own chances. The pick of the bunch fell to Kaxe, but the number nine could only scuff a tame effort at Munir.
The lively Renato Santos could have put his side ahead just before the half-time whistle after weaving his way into the box, but as is often the case, his end product was no match for his talent as he drove the ball over the crossbar.
If Malaga had the better of the first half, there is no doubting which was the superior side in the second. The visitors’ momentum had begun to dissipate in the last 10 minutes of the first half, while Ponferradina had accrued some momentum of their own, and this pattern only continued after the break.
Munir made a crucial intervention to deny the impressive Son on 48 minutes, before David Lombán, so solid in recent weeks, was forced off by injury just three minutes later.
After this point, the game turned entirely one-sided, and as the prospect of Víctor’s side bringing all three points back to the Costa del Sol became more remote, the only question seemed to be whether they could hold on for one.
Yuri grabs late winner for hosts
The answer to this question came with 10 minutes to go, as Yuri beat Lombán’s replacement Diego González to a low delivery from substitute Asier Benito, poking the ball past Munir from inside the six-yard box. The veteran striker would have had a second minutes later but for a heroic goal-line clearance from Mikel.
Víctor, who began a two-game touchline ban on Friday, insisted that his side played well and deserved more from the game, but in truth it would be hard to agree with his assessment. Malaga were unlucky to play without the injured Armando Sadiku, but his absence was not enough to explain the passivity of the side’s display in Ponferrada, and the fact that they had no chances of note in the entire second half.
Though he was stoic in the post-match, Víctor will surely be fretting over his side’s game against high-flying Fuenlabrada next week. With Keidi Bare suspended, and doubts over Sadiku and Lombán’s fitness, the stability that the manager surely craves remains elusive. Nevertheless, a reaction is needed, and if Malaga are to produce it, they will need to play far better than they did in León.