Monday, 22 January 2024, 07:40
Malaga CF's hopes of automatic promotion from Primera RFEF appear to be all-but over after a 0-1 defeat at the hands of league leaders Castellón at La Rosaleda on Sunday night.
After a disappointing run of form over the festive period, Sergio Pellicer's side needed a result to keep themselves in the conversation at the top end of the table. However, Manu Sánchez's goal early in the second half means that the Blue and Whites are now 13 points adrift in the title race and must now focus on maintaining their spot in the play-off places.
The side mostly looked disjointed on the day, with coach Pellicer reverting to a back five in an attempt to heal his side's recent frailties through the middle.
However, this only lasted 63 minutes after struggling to turn possession into anything meaningful in the first half, besides two attempts from Dani Lorenzo - one from distance and another from a tight angle - stopped well by former Malaga keeper Gonzalo.
In fact, Castellón had the ball in the net twice in the opening 45. Both were ruled out for offside but Malaga were perhaps lucky that there wasn't VAR to intervene on the first.
Ultimately, when Manu Sánchez's flicked header from centre-back Salva Ruiz's left-wing cross found itself in the back of the net in the 55th minute, Pellicer had to change something.
He reverted to a 4-4-2 with much more attacking personnel, but Castellón limited the space available and frustrated the home side who couldn't get close to the opponents' goal with any regularity during the final half hour.
In fact, the expectant 22,000-strong home crowd were left disappointed as Malaga's late push never really materialised. It was Castellón who came closest to getting the next goal, with Gervane Kastaneer conspiring to miss a sitter from five yards out and then Sergio Moyita almost catching out Alfonso Herrero from just outside the centre circle.
Up next for the Blue and Whites as they look to consolidate their grip on the play-offs is a short trip to face Granada B on Saturday (kick-off 4pm).
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