Despite losing captain Adrián to a red card in the closing exchanges, goals in each half from Cifu and Armando Sadiku were enough to help Malaga to their first win since Segunda action resumed - a 2-0 victory over Girona at La Rosaleda on Sunday night.
"I think that was our best game of the season, considering the situation and the opponent," said Malaga head coach Sergio Pellicer following the game. "We were able to manage the game well [...] The team was a lot more fluid."
Though the high-flying visitors had the first chance of the match when midfielder Borja García got the ball stuck under his feet after being teed up by striker Samuel Saiz, Malaga gradually found their groove in attack as the half progressed and Juankar tested keeper Asier Riesgo with a long-distance effort.
The breakthrough came after 20 minutes. Cifu darted in at the back post to head in Tete Morente’s cross following Juanpi's superb run forward from his own half.
Soon after it went from bad to worse for Girona, as midfielder Cristian Rivera was shown a straight red card for a clumsy sliding tackle on Keidi Bare.
Juan Carlos Unzué's side did not fade, however, and forward Cristhian Stuani – who scored an impressive 19 goals for Girona in La Liga last season – had the ball in the net but his finish was ruled out for a marginal offside.
Girona continued to threaten the Malaga goal after half time, and keeper Munir had to react brilliantly to stop Saiz’s shot before Diego González bravely blocked a follow-up attempt from Juande.
Malaga strengthened their advantage moments after, however, scoring excellently through Sadiku who glanced home after another good Tete cross.
The only blemish for Pellicer’s team came when captain Adrián was sent off for a careless tackle in the closing stages on substitute Gerard Gumbau – Malaga’s third red card in five games.
Despite the decision, Malaga's sturdy defence ensured there would be no late fightback, as they held on for their first victory since 23 February (against Racing Santander), taking a step closer to Segunda safety in the process.