Embarrassing defeat leaves Malaga trailing in promotion push again

Forward Jack Harper reacts after he sees a chance go begging.
Forward Jack Harper reacts after he sees a chance go begging. / Ñito Salas
  • Reus, who had struggled to get a team together in the face of a full-blown crisis, caught the hosts cold and inflicted a humbling loss

  • Juan Ramón Muñiz's side had most of the chances but lacked the cutting edge of their rivals

It was supposed to be a walk in the park, but the Three Kings delivered an unpleasant surprise for Malaga on Sunday as a rejuvenated Reus, against all odds, cruised to a historic 3-0 win.

Just 16,000 people turned up at La Rosaleda with many fans choosing to make other plans for the holiday weekend, especially with the uncertainty hanging over the fixture.

With Reus boasting just ten professional players after much of the squad terminated their contracts over unpaid wages, it wasn't until the day before that it was confirmed that the game would go ahead.

Despite this and all of the turmoil engulfing the Catalan club, the visitors flew out the traps and demonstrated the level of confident which should have been evident in Malaga - a team who could have gone joint top with a win.

Instead, the hosts were caught cold, perhaps having expected the game to be cancelled, and went behind as early as the 11th minute when an unmarked Borja Herrera headed Álex Carbonell's cross from the right past a hapless Munir in the Malaga goal.

Alfred N'Diaye then spurned a golden chance for an equaliser, when he headed Juanpi's corner straight at Pol before lashing the rebound over the crossbar from almost point-blank range.

Clearly dissatisfied with his wide options, Malaga coach Juan Ramón Muñiz made two changes at half time, replacing both Juanpi and Dani Pacheco with Renato Santos and debutant Hugo Vallejo, promoted from the reserves, seemingly leapfrogging Hicham in the pecking order.

However, despite Hugo's enthusiam, neither made the desired impact and the hosts fell further behind in the 63rd minute when Diego González clumsily brought down Querol on the edge of the area (replays showed the foul was in fact outside the box) and Gus Ledes tucked the ball into the bottom corner from the spotkick despite Munir getting both hands to it.

Diego González's night then went from bad to worse with seven minutes to go when he was caught out by yet another ball in behind. This time David Querol knocked Alfred Planas' diagonal ball into the side netting with his thigh, leaving Munir with no chance.

There was a late flurry just before full time as Pol, formerly of Malaga's youth team, made a spectacular double save to deny Pau Torres' header, then Diego González's shot after Gustavo Blanco Leschuk found his effort blocked on the line.

The Reus players, more so than those in blue and white, felt the warmth of the home support as they left the field, having put in a strong performance in the face of such adversity.

"This was no youth team we faced," said Muñiz following the game as his side now sit fourth. "They are a team of professionals who have caused teams a lot of difficulties this year.

"If we thought we were going to be in for an easy ride, we were wrong.

"In order to be contenders for promotion, you need to find a level of consistency."