A late goal from Real Zaragoza's Luis Suárez on Sunday afternoon condemned Malaga to their first home defeat since 12 October (against Cadiz, 1-2). On this occasion, the Blue and Whites will feel hard done by having controlled the majority of the play but were wasteful with their chances, ultimately only directing two shots on target - both coming in the second half.
Malaga dominated the first half but visiting keeper Cristian Álvarez was rarely troubled. In the 33rd minute Juanpi linked well with Tete Morente before producing the most threatening shot of the half, whipping the ball just wide of the far post.
This came after a similar effort from Dani Pacheco from the opposite side.
Zaragoza’s stubborn rearguard left the hosts relying on set pieces to try and find an opening. However, barring a goalmouth scramble stabbed wide by Armando Sadiku just before half-time, Zaragoza were able to weather the storm.
In fact, they proved increasingly dangerous on the counterattack, with Javi Puado stabbing the rebound of his initial shot, blocked by Munir, into the side netting in the 26th minute.
The lead was momentarily Malaga’s at the beginning of the second half following some swift interplay between Juanpi and Morente who set up Sadiku to flick the cross into the back of the net. However, the officials, after a VAR check, deemed Morente’s initial run to have been offside.
Malaga continued to rally in the second half but had to wait until the 72nd minute to test the keeper, with substitute Renato Santos claiming Malaga’s first shot on target. Sadiku then glanced a free-kick straight into Álvarez’s gloves.
With just ten minutes left on the clock, striker Sergio Buenacasa replaced Sadiku to provide the attack with some new energy. However, it was not Malaga’s day.
With the clock ticking down, it was a defensive error that led to Zaragoza landing the fatal blow. Faced with Munir flying out of his goal to cover Ismael’s mishap, Carlos Nieto had the presence of mind to find the perfect lay-off for Luis Suárez who swept the ball into the top corner, over the heads of the defenders on the line.
With just five minutes remaining, plus stoppage time, hope was not lost by the determined hosts who forced a number of consecutive corners and throw-ins. Munir came up and stayed up for the majority of the additional minutes and was able to force one last chance as he flicked the ball to the back post where Morente was primed for a volley. The winger, however, miscued his effort and it deflected out for a goal kick off Buenacasa.
The frustrating loss for Malaga ends a four-match streak without defeat. Zaragoza, meanwhile, remain one point off top spot in the La Liga Smartbank.
Víctor Fernández, Zaragoza’s coach, hailed his side’s “very difficult” win during his post-match press conference, as his side extended their unbeaten run in the league to ten matches.
Malaga coach Sergio Pellicer, meanwhile, argued that “the result wasn’t a fair reflection on the game”. He added: “We are proud of what we’ve done but we are also ready to work to improve.”
His side must now prepare to face fourth-placed Huesca, again at home, next Saturday.