Harper header seals comeback win

Match-winner Jack Harper (r) and Dani Pacheco celebrate with captain Federico Ricca.
Match-winner Jack Harper (r) and Dani Pacheco celebrate with captain Federico Ricca. / Salvador Salas
  • The Scot's second-half diving header puts Malaga back in the automatic promotion spots

Fortress La Rosaleda strikes again. Out of the 11 games played at their home ground, Malaga have won nine - the latest after scraping past 10-man Lugo in yet another hard-fought encounter on Saturday.

The Blue and Whites went behind early on as a result of some calamitous defending. After the corner was hit deep (seemingly too deep) the backline switched off as Eduard Campabadal’s header appeared to be trickling out for a goal kick. To Josete’s credit, though, the centre-back chased it down, beating an unsuspecting Munir to the ball, before turning sharply and placing it into a practically unguarded net.

Malaga’s David Lombán, in the starting line-up in place of the dropped Diego González, then stung the palms of Lugo keeper Juan Carlos who got down well to his right to push the centre-back’s free kick away from danger - one of the hosts’ few chances in the first half.

Things improved in that respect just five minutes after the break when Adrián, from point-blank range, bundled home Gustavo Blanco Leschuk’s knock-down from the back stick to level the scores.

The game-changing moment came with twenty minutes to go when goalscorer Josete scythed down Blanco Leschuk as he bore down on goal to earn himself a straight red card. Injury forced the Argentinean forward off minutes later.

Malaga then grabbed the lead courtesy of Jack Harper. The young striker stooped low to head home captain Federico Ricca’s inch-perfect cross from the left with just ten minutes left on the clock.

This, however, emboldened the visitors for the first time and they came close to equalising on two occasions. In the first, Munir plunged to his left to deny Iriome’s powerful header; then came the moment of controversy. Faced with the prospect of a certain goal from Cristian Herrera, Harper put his body on the line in such a way the Lugo players were convinced he handled the ball. The referee, however, took pity and waved ‘play on’.

Following the game, Malaga coach Juan Ramón Muñiz praised his players’ effort. “With us going a goal down so early, we knew that we were in for a difficult evening. But the team showed maturity and with patience we were able to turn it around.”