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Roberto's powerful header gave Malaga a half-time lead. Salvador Salas
Roberto double gifts Malaga CF narrow advantage in play-off final
Football

Roberto double gifts Malaga CF narrow advantage in play-off final

A capacity crowd at La Rosaleda was treated to a memorable win ahead of the return leg in Tarragona next Saturday

Daryl Finch

Malaga

Saturday, 15 June 2024, 22:48

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Malaga CF go into the second leg of the play-off final for promotion to Segunda with a narrow advantage after a 2-1 win over Gimnàstic de Tarragona this Saturday evening.

The atmosphere was electric at La Rosaleda ahead of arguably the biggest game the Malaga stadium has hosted in a decade as the side look to return to the second tier at the first time of asking. However, this first-leg tie almost got off to the worst possible start for the hosts.

When Nàstic broke in numbers on the counter-attack in the opening minute, goalkeeper Alfonso Herrero was on hand to dig his teammates out of trouble with an excellent reaction save to deny Alan Godoy from close range.

After this early scare, Malaga settled into the game and their first chance came in the seventh minute when David Ferreiro forced a good save out of Alberto Varo from distance.

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The hosts then thought they should have had a penalty when Roberto was sent through on goal and was seemingly clipped from behind, only for the referee to wave play on.

Nàstic's nous, plus various stoppages, took the sting out of the game until just as the first half was nearing a close when Roberto’s backheel flick inside the six-yard box almost snuck in at the far post.

Controversial goal

However, he wasn’t to be denied again. Deep into first-half stoppage time, Malaga’s top scorer caught the visitors’ defence napping and powered home a header at the near post that the keeper couldn’t keep out, despite getting two hands on the ball.

This left the Nàstic players furious, as they argued that there were two balls in the penalty area when the goal was scored.

However, it didn’t take long for the visitors to right this ‘wrong’. Almost immediately after the restart, the scores were level again when David Concha collected the ball on the left after Genaro was dispossessed to bend an excellent effort in at the far post.

Unexpected lifeline

This setback threatened to deflate the 29,103-strong support at La Rosaleda, but Malaga were given an unexpected lifeline just 12 minutes later when Einar Galilea was wrestled to the ground to earn a penalty.

Roberto stepped up and, despite the keeper going the right way, the Blue and Whites were in the lead once again.

Malaga then largely controlled the game, but nerves started to play a role as the game entered the final quarter of an hour and the visitors went more direct, having made attacking substitutions.

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However, Pellicer’s side held firm and could even have got a third on a quick counter-attack, but for some last-gasp defending to stop Roberto going through on goal.

Now, Malaga must defend their lead in the return leg scheduled for next Saturday, 22 June, at Nou Estadi (9pm). It’s important to remember that the Catalans will have the advantage if the aggregate score is tied after extra time having finished higher in the regular season.

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