January 3, 2008

Copa del Rey: Racing vs. Malaga

Malaga made the long trip to the Spanish north coast to Santander to play Racing in the second leg of the Copa del Rey (first leg 0-0). But with their eyes firmly on the league, starting with Cadiz on Saturday, eight of the normal first team were left behind - Jesus Gámez, Weligton, Rossato, Apoño, Antonio Hidalgo, Calleja, Salva and Baha did not travel.

Málaga (4-4-2): Arnau; Raúl Gaitán, Hélder Rosario, Jesule and Valcarce; Cheli, Carpintero, Sandro and Eliseu; Iván Rosado and Peragón.

It was a more attacking line-up than anticipated and perhaps Muñiz thought he could snatch a quick away goal to make the game more complicated for the home team (as away goals count double in the event of a draw), but in fact, Malaga were overwhelmed in first half an hour by a Racing very focussed and with an almost perfect tactical disposition.

As a result Malaga did not see the ball until they were 2-0 down. Both goals were the fruits of their defensive laziness at corners.

In Malaga’s only attack in the first third of the game Malaga-reject Cesar Numpty raised his leg and committed a clear penalty against Pink Iván, but Peragón wasted the opportunity when taking a very little run up.

Malaga only really reacted when Racing stopped in its push and Sandro began to have more seconds to look for passes in depth, but Malaga already needed to score two goals.

However, Cheli gave the first warning, in an excellent move with Eliseu but his shot went straight into the hands of the goalkeeper.

Half-time: Racing 2 Malaga 0

Malaga continued in its reaction in second half, with more pride than capacity. Racing lowered its intensity compared to how they started the game, but did not fail to take advantage of the occasions that allowed them to counterattack.

The changes of Muñiz, that introduced Gerardo and Paulo Jorge, for a taciturn Peragón and Hélder Rosário, respectively, made no difference to the play or final outcome.

Final score: Racing 2 Malaga 0

So Malaga took leave of the Copa and although they may have had a mouth-watering tie against one the big guns, it leaves their midweek’s free in January to concentrate on winning league fixtures and gaining promotion by the end of the season.

December 23, 2007

Jornada 18: Malaga vs. Sevilla Atletico

In heavy rain, albeit at 11C, 10,094 supporters turned up to watch Malaga’s last game of 2007 on the last shopping Saturday before Christmas.

Today’s visitors, newly promoted Sevilla Atletico (Sevilla’s second team and so cannot be promoted from La Segunda no matter where they finish in the table) have had a fantastic start to their season occupying a top six spot almost from Jornada 1.

Despite the fact that Malaga scraped a draw last week with a last minute own goal, Muñiz kept faith with his players by naming an unchanged team.

Malaga (4-4-2): Goitia; Jesus Gamez, Rosario, Weligton and Rossato; Paulo Jorge, Hidalgo, Capintero and Calleja; Baha and Salva.

The stadium had an emptyish look about it with the fans seeking out cover from the driving rain. (Since 2003, this is only the third time I have not sat in my seat because of the weather. Our seats are behind the goal at the Fondo end and have no protection against the elements whatsoever).

Malaga started kicking towards the Fondo goal in the first half; perhaps the first time they have done this so far this season. Perhaps they were hoping that their record of not scoring during the first half would change with the change?

It looked to have worked as early as the third minute when Calleja twice got the break of the ball down the left side. He had an opportunity to shoot with the visitor’s defence in disarray, but with Salva and Baha both running into the box he elected to try a cross instead and the chance was lost.

That was about it for goal scoring chances in the first half for Malaga as both teams seemed content in the conditions to slog it out in midfield. Although Paulo Jorge and Calleja both started playing wide down their respective wings, again as the half progressed, they wandered into a very crowded centre of the park and it was almost a relief when the referee blew for half time.

Half time Málaga 0 Sevilla Atlético 0

There were no changes from either side upon the resumption and unsurprisingly, no change in the state of play on the park. Sevilla Atletico are a young side full of hopefuls wanting to break into the top side and were very well organised, particularly in midfield and defence. With Paulo Jorge now wandering aimlessly all over the pitch and Calleja tiring, it was the visitors who managed to get into the home penalty area on a number of occasions with only poor shooting and side net from keeping the score level.

The game was to change with the first substitution of the game, when perhaps Malaga’s only true winger, Eliseu was introduced at the expense of left back Rossato. Calleja dropped back into defence and the flying Portuguese winger took up the position wide left on the wing.

Eliseu gives Malaga a very different option when he comes on, because he has genuine pace and given proper service can create havoc in any defence. At first he wasn’t too effectual as the Sevilla defenders response was to bring him down on every occasion he received a pass that was not quite accurate enough. But his presence and running did cause Sevilla to become more defensive and Goitia was starting to wave his arms around to keep warm as a virtual spectator.

However, it needed a second substitution from Muñiz, bringing on Apoño for Carpintero in 70’, before there would be any breakthrough in the match, which was looking yet again destined to be a draw.

Carpintero is a defensive midfielder, very adept at breaking up attacks, whereas Apoño is a more skilled passer of the ball and with him and Hidalgo starting to spray the passes around, at last Malaga looked to be able to put the visitor’s defence under pressure.

Calleja and Eliseu combined down the left wing well in 77’ before the substitute crossed deep into the box. Both Salva and Baha were ready for the ball, but so were the Sevilla defenders. However they could only clear the ball to HIDALGO, who remembered how to shoot from 15 yards to open the scoring. GGGGGOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!

Malaga 1 Sevilla Atletico 0

Sevilla kicked off but Apoño intercepted the pass and sent Eliseu clear down the left wing. He raced down the wing and sent in an inch perfect cross for SALVA to crash home Malaga’s second! GOOAAAALLLLLLL!!!!! What a difference good passing and a bit of pace on the wing can make, especially when strikers such as Salva and Baha are so merciless if they get any kind of service. What a turnaround! The game was heading for a no-score draw and suddenly within a minute Malaga are 2-0 up!

Malaga 2 Sevilla Atletico 0

The scoring wasn’t over, but we had to wait until the last minute of the game to see a carbon copy of the second goal. Again, Eliseu was released in space down the left wing. Again his cross was perfect. Again SALVA was there waiting and ready to provide the finish! GOOAALLLLL!!!!!

Full time Malaga 3 Sevilla Atletico 0

In the end a convincing victory which puts Malaga back on top of the league pending the result of the Numancia-Cordoba game. However, on a driech Saturday evening, it is always a nice feeling to leave the football ground after seeing your team score three excellent goals and win 3-0.

There is a short break now in Spanish football over the festive season. Malaga’s next match is in the Copa del Rey on 2 January in the away second leg against La Primera side Racing Santander (first leg 0-0). The next league match is on the weekend of 5/6 January 2008 in Cadiz. The “Yellow Submarines” are now managed by ex Raith Rovers manager Antonio Calderon, who has seen them progress up the table since he took over in October. This is a local derby and a chance for a weekend away so we will be making the trip (about 3 hours) to enjoy the Three Kings and hopefully another Malaga victory! Your Malaga CF Correspondent will be there.

Enjoy yourselves over the Christmas and New Year period – take care and keep safe.