Thursday, 12 October 2023, 15:24
Though far from dazzling, Malaga CF moved level on points with Primera RFEF leaders Castellón after picking up a narrow 1-0 win against struggling Melilla at La Rosaleda on Thursday.
A unique combination of the King’s League coming to Malaga this weekend and a national holiday created the bizarre scenario of a midweek noon kick-off, but the Malaga public responded and filled out La Rosaleda, creating the biggest attendance of the season so far (24,292).
The hosts, as their superior league position would suggest, started the game as the stronger team, with Juande drawing a reflex save from keeper Javier Montoya with his header early on.
Shortly after, Manu Sánchez’s cross to the back post caused uncertainty in the Melilla box and Dani Martín almost put through his own goal.
Midway through the first half, the ever-lively Kevin, who had been causing Melilla no end of trouble from the left, came close to capping off a dizzying run from Dani Larrubia but dragged his effort just wide of the far post.
Just five minutes later, he was involved again - and it was decisive. First, Loren Zúñiga’s shot from the angle was saved by Montoya who was quickly up to push Kevin’s rebound spectacularly onto the post. However, the hapless stopper could do nothing to prevent Dioni Villalba from converting at the third time of asking.
The keeper’s impressive form continued just two minutes later when he tipped Dioni’s powerful back-post header over the bar.
After a lowkey 20 minutes, Malaga’s Juanpe suddenly became the centre of attention. After Loren intelligently robbed the ball inside the penalty area, the ball broke to the midfielder whose shot with his instep was saved by the keeper. As the ball broke, Juanpe was pulled to the ground but the referee dismissed the crowd’s vociferous penalty claims.
After the break, Malaga continued where they left off and Kevin, now operating off the right after Larrubia was withdrawn at half-time, fired a powerful shot into the side netting.
However, complacency started to set in for Sergio Pellicer’s side and the visitors began to grow into the game, albeit without creating any clear chances. That was until the 69th minute when a slip from Juanpe resulted in a three-on-two situation in which Alfonso Herrero was required to make a smart save from Miguel García.
This was a much-needed wake-up call and Pellicer certainly reacted, refreshing his entire centre midfield in an attempt to wrestle back control of the game.
This wasn’t entirely successful, though, and Melilla even had the ball in the back of the net with a minute to go, but substitute José Enrique’s header at the back post was ruled out for a narrow offside.
They also had a late penalty appeal for handball dismissed in the final seconds to the relief of the majority inside the ground who celebrated Malaga extending their unbeaten run to seven games.
The Blue and Whites’ next game is also at La Rosaleda, a week on Saturday, against Castilla, Real Madrid’s reserve team.
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