After two games without a win, Malaga picked up an unlikely three points on the road as they beat Real Zaragoza 2-1 at La Romareda on Sunday evening to move into the play-off spots.
Coach Sergio Pellicer made a host of changes from the side which struggled to break down ten-man Las Palmas last week, reverting to a five-man defence, with Alberto Escassi dropping in to shield debutant Juan Soriano between the sticks.
Midfielder Ramón returned to the side but it was forward Pablo Chavarría, making his first start since joining from Mallorca, who made the most telling contribution.
Following a VAR review, it was confirmed that the Argentinian had indeed given the visitors the lead in the 14th minute when he headed Yanis Rahmani’s cross from the left back where it came from and into the side netting, giving keeper Cristian Álvarez no chance.
Just twelve minutes later, Chavarría was involved again, chasing Ramón’s speculative long ball towards the corner flag before teeing up his striking partner Caye Quintana for the second. The on-loan Cadiz man slid to connect with the cut-back from the right, getting enough purchase on his effort to squeeze it through the keeper’s grasp.
With the scoreboard showing 2-0 after just 26 minutes, Zaragoza head coach Rubén Baraja changed his side’s tactics, narrowing the field, allowing his midfielders to get on the ball more. Malaga, by contrast, were happy to cede possession and apart from Luca Zanimacchia drawing a superb reaction save from Soriano from a set piece, the hosts barely created any openings in the first half.
In fact it was Chavarría again who had the first chance of the second half but was unable to squeeze his shot past Álvarez from a tight angle.
However, the urgency of the situation started to be felt and Zaragoza started to have some luck down their left-hand side. First, Juanjo Narváez whipped a shot just wide of the far post after getting the better of Iván Calero; then Carlos Nieto had his half volley fisted away by Soriano.
The Malaga resistance was eventually broken with seven minutes plus stoppage time to go when Narváez’s low cross from the right evaded Josua Mejías, Juande, Escassi and Calero to be tucked in at close range by former Malaga captain Adrián who had come on as a second-half substitute.
The visitors, though, were able to hold on and seal what was a well-deserved victory. The win lifted them up to the play-off places (6th), just three points off early leaders Espanyol.
However, that could soon change with three matches in the space of a week coming up. Malaga will face Sporting Gijón at La Rosaleda on Thursday night (kick-off 9.30pm), before Mirandés visit on Sunday (8.30pm).
The Blue and Whites then must travel to face Mallorca next Wednesday night.