Malaga succumbed to a first league defeat in five games in Mallorca on Thursday night, in an encounter mostly dominated by the side recently relegated from La Liga.
Pitted against a team who hadn’t conceded a goal in their last seven matches, Malaga did at least break their opponents' stubborn resolve when striker Pablo Chavarría - a Mallorca player last campaign - pulled a superb goal back in the second half to reduce the home team's 2-0 advantage.
But it wasn’t enough to inspire an unlikely fightback as the islanders ensured victory with a third and final goal in the closing stages through Dani Rodríguez.
A forceful start
The hosts began more forcefully, pinning Malaga back inside their own half during the opening exchanges, with attackers Yanis Rahmani, Caye Quintana and Chavarría failing to make an impact.
After ten minutes, Mallorca's pressure paid off. Sloppy defending from the Blue and Whites allowed forward Amath Ndiaye - played onside by defender Josua Mejías - to slam the ball past keeper Juan Soriano following a short corner.
Sergio Pellicer’s team were limited to only occasional bursts forward as Mallorca dictated the rhythm, with 36-year-old veteran midfielder Salva Sevilla orchestrating the play from the centre of the pitch.
Malaga’s only notable effort came from Mejías, whose header from a corner was gathered comfortably by Manolo Reina in the Mallorca goal.
Matters worsened for the visitors after half time. Mallorca defender Antonio Raíllo stooped to head in a free-kick only five minutes after the restart, with the video assistant referee confirming the finish was onside.
A bolt from the blue
In an attempt to kickstart his non-existent attack, Pellicer introduced Jairo who replaced Quintana on the right wing. The change paid off moments later when Jairo’s ambitious run forward looked to have been snuffed out by Mallorca's defence, only for Chavarría to hammer an effort past Reina from the edge of the box to reduce the deficit.
Chavarría’s bolt from the blue was not enough to swing the momentum his team’s way, however, as Mallorca almost grabbed a third when Amath’s powerful shot was saved superbly by Soriano.
Unfortunately for Soriano, he couldn’t keep out the next attempt from Dani Rodríguez which crashed into the bottom corner with just under 20 minutes remaining.
Now equipped with attacking substitute Jozabed, Malaga pushed forward in the final stages but couldn’t set up an exciting finish as Mallorca cruised to victory.
After the match, Pellicer praised his team's attitude despite the defeat. "In terms of play, it was a ten out of ten for everyone," he said. "The frustrating thing was the set piece situations. Powerful teams like this win games against you from set pieces."
Next up for Malaga is a tricky home test on Monday night against Espanyol, who will look to continue their table-topping form when they visit La Rosaleda.