Saturday, 8 April 2023, 08:35
Just as it seemed all hope of avoiding the drop was gone, Malaga CF pulled out an unexpected win away to Villarreal B on Friday night.
Despite registering only one win on the road all season (1-3 against Mirandés on 27 August last year), the Blue and Whites flew out the traps and dominated the first half at the Estadio de la Cerámica.
With a combined age of 76 years old, veteran forwards Pablo Chavarría (35) and Rubén Castro (41) were reunited up top in an attack-oriented line-up from coach Sergio Pellicer. And it paid off.
After Álex Millán stung the palms of Malaga keeper Rubén Yáñez from a tight angle, the Villarreal reserve team spent much of the first half chasing shadows and the breakthrough goal didn't take too long to arrive.
In the 14th minute, the lively Aleix Febas won back the ball and powered into midfield before feeding Chavarría on the edge of the box. The Argentinian then worked a neat one-two with Julián Delmás on the right, applying the first-time finish to beat Iker Álvarez at his near post.
The first 45 minutes provided many more chances for Malaga: a game of pinball resulted in a saved effort from Febas and two blocked shots; and Fran Villalba also came close with two efforts, one on each foot.
Less than a quarter of an hour after the opener, it was Febas driving forward again, this time feeding in the other member of the deadly striking duo, Rubén Castro, who slashed the ball with his left foot across goal and in off the far post. The keeper was rooted to the spot.
The goal meant yet another record for the 41-year-old: he's now both the record goalscorer (214) in the Spanish second tier, setting the record in the game he also became the record appearance maker between the two top divisions (710).
After such a whirlwind first half, it came as no surprise that the second was a relatively dull affair. Pellicer moved to shut up shop, reverting to a back five - but that didn't safeguard his side from a few scares.
Sergio Carreira pulled a goal back for the hosts, volleying home a lovely dinked pass over the Malaga backline by Tiago Geralnik. The shot came from a very tight angle and completely bypassed Rubén Yáñez at his near post, going in off the far post. This bizarre goal was one to forget for the Malaga goalkeeper who had clearly been anticipating a cross - and his opponent knew it.
However, Villarreal B, with only a faint hope of finishing in the playoff places, didn't show the urgency one might expect in the remainder of the game. Though Malaga were mostly camped in their own half, the game looked like it was always under their control.
The win moves Malaga to within five points of safety with seven games to go, though Racing Santander are still to play this weekend.
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