Monday, 11 December 2023, 07:29
The gap between Malaga CF and the Primera RFEF summit has been reduced to five points following the Blue and Whites' hard-fought 2-1 win on the road against Mérida on Sunday evening.
Their excellent form away from home this season continued in Extremadura despite their mounting injury crisis. Coach Sergio Pellicer picked what seemed to be the only possible line-up given the absentees and, unsurprisingly, the opening exchanges were challenging for his team as they struggled to find rhythm.
The hosts created several early chances, but Malaga were able to weather the storm until the 17th minute when Dioni showed great intelligence in holding off two defenders before winning a penalty. Roberto then stepped up to convert with a powerful strike, despite the keeper going the right way.
The expectation then was that Malaga would control the game from thereon. However, Mérida continued to expose the visitors' defence, particularly down the left flank, and just four minutes later, Dani Sandoval set up Chuma, who snuck in around the back of both Jokin Gabilondo and Einar Galilea to tap home the equaliser.
The game remained wide open with end-to-end attacks, but the game swung back in Malaga's favour 15 minutes before the break when Kevin's excellent cut-back to the penalty spot gave David Larrubia a chance he couldn't miss against his former team.
Minutes later, Genaro had a similar effort cleared off the line by Lluis Llácer who kept his side in the contest going into the second half.
Seeing that Mérida were going all out for an equaliser, Pellicer made pragmatic changes in the second half to stem the flow. But while Sandoval had a goal disallowed for a narrow offside, these alterations had the desired effect - even if it meant Malaga retreating deeper and deeper into their own half.
But despite some tense moments, there were no clear-cut chances and Malaga sealed the win to narrow the gap on the top two teams, Castellón and Ibiza, both of whom failed to secure victories this match day.
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