The good news just keeps coming for Malaga fans. The same week that president Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani was ousted (albeit temporarily) from the club, Malaga continued their run of good form on the pitch with a third consecutive win, this time over bottom of the table Racing Santander on Sunday evening.
Boosted by a near-capacity 24,773 crowd - a record this season - Malaga started strong with a promising early cross from Juanpi that was volleyed over the bar by leading scorer Armando Sadiku in the sixth minute.
Hicham and Tete Morente featured heavily in the first half, using their pace to keep Racing pegged back in their own half. Both saw plenty of the ball, with the January signing in particular putting in a stellar performance, showing speed, close control and trickery to get the better of left-back Abraham. He capped off a superb first half with a wonderful individual goal, hammering into the roof of the net at Luca Zidane’s near post in the 29th minute.
As the pressure continued to build, the hosts capitalised. Juanpi floated a free-kick in behind Racing’s sleepy defence for defender David Lombán to volley home for Malaga’s second.
As Racing’s players dropped their heads, Malaga’s fans became increasingly vocal in the second half with the carnival atmosphere filtering into the stadium. Hicham almost had them on their feet again when he curled in a dangerous shot from the left that was nervously tipped over by the keeper just after the restart.
The visitors only recorded their first shot on target in the 51st minute and coach José Luis Oltra wasted no time in making a double change. The Racinguistas enjoyed more possession but barring a late volley from David Barral, completely unmarked in the area, they came nowhere near troubling Munir. In the end, his effort flew past the post.
Malaga, in fact, were far more likely to bag a third. Sadiku found himself with ample time and space in the 73rd minute, but squandered Malaga’s best chance in the second half, misdirecting his shot wide of the goal. Substitute Dani Pacheco also came close when he hit the post from long range.
The win puts Malaga thirteenth, just three points off the play-off places. Some fans even optimistically started chanting “vamos a volver” (“we’re heading back [to La Liga]”).
Caretaker coach Sergio Pellicer said he noted the “fire in the supporters’ eyes” in his post-match press conference. Following a slow start to the season and scandal off the pitch, it looks like Malaga are starting to get some stability at last.