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An unenthusiastic Malaga end 2021 in bitter disappointment

The Blue and Whites lost 0-2 to a slick Leganés side, with the future of head coach José Alberto being called into question

SHAY CONAGHAN

Malaga came into their last game of 2021 with the need to win as it would have kept their promotion hopes alive going into the new year. But Leganés put on a brilliant display of football, calmly defeating their hosts 0-2.

Head coach José Alberto, opted for a 4-5-1, leaving strikers Roberto and Sekou on the bench, with Brandon at the front of the attack as a false 9. Dani Lorenzo also kept his place in midfield, as the 18-year-old continued to impress.

The hosts started off enthusiastically, pressing high up the park and not leaving Leganés players with any time on the ball.

The visitors then quickly took charge of the game and within the first 15 minutes they had a few shots on target, as well as what would have been a disastrous error by Escassi, who gifted an opposing player the ball on the edge of the box.

Malaga struggled to find the control they so often have at La Rosaleda. The hosts did eventually wake up, with possession now bouncing back and forth between the sides, but with no end product to show for.

The Blue and Whites had a good chance to open the scoring just before the half hour mark, but Leganés failed to put a foot wrong. That did little to help Malaga’s spirit, despite the fans every effort to lift them, as the Andalusians nearly conceded just minutes later.

Towards the end of the first half, the Blue and Whites almost converted a few chances into the opening goal, but always just fell short of hitting the back of the net.

José Alberto made no changes at the break, with his players showing more signs of aggression and determination than in the opening 45 minutes.

Second half

But the visitors struck first within the initial five minutes of the second half, as defender Omeruo calmly slotted home a perfectly placed cross, unmarked by any of the Malaga players.

The Blue and Whites continued their efforts for the next few minutes, but their opponents were doing a good job of thwarting any of their attempts and they even had a couple of chances of doubling their lead.

Roberto, who came on with Hicham with half an hour left, showed a lot of heart and was very active during the minutes he was given, linking up well with others, finding spaces that were non-existent in the first half and constantly chasing down the visitors’ defenders.

The Blue and Whites dominated the game after conceding, but still couldn’t find an equaliser against a more than comfortable Leganés side, who were still pushing for a second goal.

And the visitors got their wish. With 12 minutes left, Leganés took advantage of a counterattack that had left Malaga goalkeeper Dani Martín to fend for himself, as Juan Muñoz easily put the ball past him.

That was enough for the visitors to seal the deal. Malaga showed very little for the rest of the game, despite introducing the powerhouse that is Sekou up front. The match ended 0-2, a much-deserved result to a slick Leganés side.

This defeat was a huge blow to a team that desperately needs to win at home due to their dire away form. Malaga’s current hopes for promotion now hang in the balance going into 2022; and the fate of José Alberto is also in question, as La Rosaleda made it very clear that they had had enough, calling for the coach to step down on several occasions.