Malaga players celebreate scoring one the goals. / MARIANO POZO

MALAGA 2 - 2 SPORTING GIJÓN

A point for Malaga to kick off 2022 at La Rosaleda

The Blue and Whites were unlucky not to take all three points, with many chances not quite hitting the mark

SHAY CONAGHAN

Malaga returned to La Rosaleda for the first time in 2022 on Sunday, 9 January, with a 2-2 draw against Sporting Gijón in a good display from the hosts, who were unable to overcome a solid defence.

Head coach José Alberto lined up a strong starting eleven, as several players returned from either injury or testing positive for Covid-19, with new signings Aleix Febas and Álvaro Vadillo starting on the bench.

The opening ten minutes saw a dominant Malaga press high up the pitch, eager to win the ball back, and they also enjoyed a good amount of possession but struggled to find space in which to play through.

Sporting were then given a penalty in the 15th minute, as one of their players was clumsily brought down. The visitors converted the spot kick to take the lead, completely against the run of play.

The goal gave Malaga’s opponents a big boost, nearly doubling their lead five minutes later. The hosts would revert back to pressing high and trying to regain possession, with both teams now fighting for control of the game.

Penalty

The Blue and Whites had a stroke of luck on the half-hour mark, being given a penalty of their own, which Brandon tucked away in the bottom left corner.

Malaga had a few more chances during the rest of the half but despite their best efforts, Sporting scored their second just five minutes from the break with a stunning, left-footed effort from outside the box that completely silenced La Rosaleda.

The second half saw an equally determined Malaga side, with a few early chances - namely a wasted one-on-one attempt for Brandon - showing that the hosts were eager to bring things level again.

Both Sekou and Jozabed were brought on with half an hour left to replace Roberto and Kevin, boosting Malaga’s physical presence in attack. The Blue and Whites only grew in confidence, edging close to the equalising goal but with their attempts not quite hitting the mark.

This was largely due to a stubborn Sporting defence doing their job to perfection, clearing just about every cross and dealing with every attempt that Malaga threw at them, including a point-blank header from Sekou, expertly saved by the goalkeeper.

And with under five minutes to go, a loose ball fell to Ramón on the edge of the box, who smashed it around all the opposing defenders, placing it into the top corner to bring things level once again.

In the end, Sporting held onto the draw, handing the Andalusians a bittersweet point that will still raise further questions around José Alberto.

If fortune really did favour the bold, Malaga would have taken all three points. But the reality is that the team came into this campaign looking to survive another season in the second division, although promotion is still close enough to challenge for.

The Blue and Whites will hope to turn that luck around in their next game, which will be against UD Ibiza on 22 January at La Rosaleda.