It was the same old story. Malaga returned to their old ways in the second round of the Copa del Rey on Thursday night, with a weak performance in which they lacked the resources to control the game against the boisterous Gimnàstic de Tarragona at the Nou Estadi Costa Dourada. It is disheartening to see the constant inability of the Blue & Whites whenever they get close to the opposing area.
In his pre-match press conference, Pepe Mel stressed that players who had not been regulars for some time needed to step up and make the most of their opportunities. He opted to use only one player from last Sunday's game against Alavés, Ramalho, as a central defender alongside Juande. The starting line-up was completed by Manolo Reina, Bilal, Bustinza (wearing a protective mask due to his recent injury), Ramon, Luis Muñoz, N’Diae, Alex Gallar, Fran Sol and Issa Fomba.
Malaga came out looking ready to take control, but all too soon their determination was diluted by Gimnàstic. The Catalan side, playing in a very close 4-4-1-1 formation, showed their strength early on. Malaga gave in too early to the pressure and this just highlighted the difficulties they have in defending.
The home side opened the scoring: Pol Domingo gained possession in the area, deflected by the Malaguista defence, putting Nàstic 1-0 up with a powerful shot in the 13th minute.
That increased Gimnàstic’s confidence, and Malaga appeared very weak. However, they did recover as time went on and they scored the equaliser after half an hour of play. N’Diaye took advantage of a good play on the left wing between Luis Muñoz and Bustinza to shoot from inside the area and take the visiting team level (1-1).
A header from Montavo, forcefully dealt with by Manolo Reina, was the only other attempt before the half-time whistle. The teams ended the first half equal, with a yellow card for each squad: N’Diaye and Bonilla.
After the break, Fran Sol came close to scoring a second goal for Malaga with a great header served up by Ramón. Their opponents reacted with a superb combination between Marc Álvarez and Bonilla and Manolo Reina had to work hard to deflect the ball to a corner kick.
Pepe Mel decided to make some changes in the hope of victory, and replaced Álex Gallar and N’Diaye with Febas and Fran Villalba to provide more alternatives at the start of the game. Half an hour into the second half he also brought Rubén Castro on to replace Luis Muñoz, and these changes produced some improvement to the team.
Gimnàstic, who had only had options because the Blue and Whites were so worryingly weak, conceded ground, but even then they didn't suffer much because Malaga still proved totally harmless. Neither Castro nor Fran Sol (who went off almost unused) or Loren, a late substitute, had a single chance. There was too much driving from the midfielders and no service from the wings.
Villalba had a good chance to score from the edge of the area with his left foot, but Parra made an easy save. Then Gimnàstic scored again, with Pablo Fernández making the most of a poor clearance and Ramón’s calamitous strike in the 81st minute to make it 2-1 to the home team.
Loren and Juanma, who was making his debut with the Malaga first team, came on to try for an equaliser in the last few minutes, but it was never going to happen. The final whistle blew and that was it: Malaga were out of the Copa del Rey. Once again, the side had been seriously lacking in the ability to attack.