Tuesday, 28 March 2023, 07:53
Malaga are not done yet. A 2-0 home win over Leganés on Monday night extended their unbeaten run to three games, giving a faint glimmer of hope that they can escape relegation this season.
The game was a must-win - and win they did. But Malaga didn't have it their own way at La Rosaleda, hosting its second major game in three days.
The hosts were lax in the first half. Despite coach Sergio Pellicer making only two changes from the 0-0 draw with Levante (Alberto Escassi for the banned Juande and Rubén Castro for Fran Sol), the side lacked fluidity in the opening 45 minutes. Barring a deflected shot from Aleix Febas, Malaga didn't create anything of note at all.
In fact, they could have been a goal down but for a last-ditch tackle from Cristian to deny José Arnaiz, who had gone clean through on goal in the 14th minute.
It was clear that something had to change - and Pellicer didn't hesitate to act on it. Luis Muñoz and Pablo Chavarría, two mainstays from last season, came on at half time as the Blue and Whites changed to an orthodox 4-4-2 system.
This made a massive difference. Malaga were firmly on the front foot during the second half and looked the most likely side to win the game.
Chavarría and Rubén Castro combined well just five minutes after the restart, with the latter flicking the ball into the former's path, only for him to be denied by a fine, sprawling save from Asier Riesgo.
Ten minutes later, the breakthrough arrived. Firstly, Lago Junior's effort from the penalty spot was saved down low by Riesgo, before Ramón's follow-up fell kindly for an unmarked Rubén Castro to tuck the ball into the side netting.
Lago Junior could have sealed the win in the first minute of the eight added on at the end of the game, but a great block from Jorge Sáenz deflected the Ivorian's effort over the bar after a skilful jinking run saw him bearing down on goal.
The final nail in the coffin did eventually arrive in the 98th minute after Leganés threw everyone, including the keeper, forward for the final corner kick. It came to nothing, but when Chavarría robbed the defender of the ball on the half-way line, all that was left for him to do was walk (or rather sprint) the ball into the open goal to seal the win.
Malaga's victory, and Sporting Gijón's 1-1 draw in Las Palmas means the gap to safety has now been reduced to eight points with nine games still to play.
On Sunday, 2 April, Malaga travel to play FC Andorra at their Estadi Nacional (6.30pm kick-off).
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