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Roberto's first-half penalty claim was waved away by the referee. Agencia LOF
Malaga CF trip up on visit to relegation-battling Melilla
Football

Malaga CF trip up on visit to relegation-battling Melilla

With their direct rivals dropping points, a trip to north Africa was a massive opportunity to gain ground in the hunt for promotion

Daryl Finch

Malaga

Sunday, 11 February 2024, 19:06

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Malaga CF passed up an excellent opportunity to gain ground on their promotion rivals on Sunday as they fell to a surprise defeat away to relegation-battling Melilla.

With both joint leaders Castellón and Ibiza only drawing this weekend, third-placed Malaga could have closed the gap to nine points with a win in north Africa. However, Sergio Pellicer's side ultimately came away with nothing, losing by a single goal to nil and dropping one place in the table.

On a very poor pitch, the visitors attempted to impose themselves early on. However, the surface impeded them significantly, preventing them from stringing a series of passes together.

This meant that although they were in control of the game, they didn't create any clear-cut chances in the opening 45 minutes, except for one strike from defender Juande whose left-footed volley was saved low at his near post by keeper Javier Montoya.

Striker Roberto, too, had a penalty appeal waved away for a shove in the back.

Momentum shift

In the second half, however, everything was turned on its head. Melilla went on to create a string of excellent chances, with José Enrique missing the target from point-blank range, then Sergio Pérez chipping the ball straight at Alfonso Herrero in a one-on-one situation.

Eventually, the hosts broke the deadlock with 18 minutes left to play when Ousama Siddiki, unmarked and possibly from an offside position, headed home a freekick from the right at the back post.

This late blow stunned Malaga, who couldn't react in the closing moments of the game to force a draw, leaving them closer to sixth-placed Murcia than top spot.

Malaga's next game is a tough test as they welcome fifth-placed Recreativo Huelva to La Rosaleda on Sunday at 12 noon.

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