Jornada 22: Malaga vs. Real Mallorca
What a fortnight it's been! Snow on Torre del Mar beach, two new signings for Malaga and one departure and the first rain since November, albeit rain is an overstatement as we had some drizzle for an afternoon - which is having the locals making plans for a possible drought if we don't get some more rain during February.
In the week after the win against Atletico Madrid, we saw the arrival of Tote on-loan from Real Betis, with an option to sign for 1m€ at the end of the season. Tote is now 26, but at one time was as revered as his then team-mate, Raul, at Real Madrid as the dream ticket in attack in Spain. Successive managers and extreme competition for the striker's role for the Blancos saw Tote make the move to Andalucian rivals, Real Betis but again never got the opportunity to prove himself in Sevilla. With the arrival of Oliveira from Valencia at the beginning of the season, Tote saw his options decrease even more. Always a goalscorer in every team he's played for, he seems a good bet for Malaga, who will surely be given the opportunity this season to make a name for himself and salvage what was a very promising career.
Also in that week saw the signing of Fernando Baiano (on his shirt, Fernando) from Brazilian club, Sao Caetano, having previously played in the German Bundesliga for Wolfsburg. The six feet plus Brazilian is well loved in his home country and at 25 has already an impressive goalscoring record. His signing, however, caused an administrative problem for Malaga, as the Spanish Liga rules only allow three non-EU players in the first team squad. Malaga already had three, Wanchope (Costa Rica), Romero (Uruguay) and Leko (Croatia). The Brazilian, Amoroso, already has dual nationality, after years of playing in Europe. So, Leko, whose contract was due for renewal at the end of the season was sacrificed and has left the club. He has returned to Croatia and has signed for Hadjduck Split.
(Footnote: the day after Leko left, Romero gained dual nationality and so no longer counts as a non-EU player. Sod's Law applies in Spain too).
Last week, Malaga played away to Real Zaragoza in a game which the home team won 1-0, but only after Malaga had two cast-iron penalty claims turned down and also had two men sent off (Edgar and Duda) both for deliberate hand ball. Your Correspondent may be biased, but it was also a bit of a mystery to each of the five major TV stations in Spain why they were straight red cards and why penalties weren't awarded, so we can safely say "We wuz robbed".
New Manager Tapia (it means "garden wall") therefore had three new signings and at least two changes to make to the starting eleven for tonight's crucial game against Mallorca. Malaga sit one point clear of the three relegation places in the league in 17th place. Mallorca start the game in second bottom place (19th). So a six-pointer in prospect. In the event, it was starting debuts for Michel (pronounced Meetchel) and Fernando, with Tote, Amoroso, Wanchope, Litos, Iznate and Calatayud on the bench. In a much changed line-up, Michel started on the left wing, Gerardo on the right wing, Romero at right back with Juan Rodriguez playing off Fernando in attack.
Malaga (4-4-1-1): Arnau, Romero, Cesar Navas, Fernando Sanz, Valcarce, Gerardo, Miguel Angel, Juanito and Michel, Juan Rodriguez and Fernando.
Mallorca also have had a change of manager with Benito Flores being replaced by Hector Cuper, the Argentinean who gained fame some seasons ago with Valencia, before trying his luck in Italy. He has been busy during the January transfer window, signing Uruguayan midfielder De Los Santos, Italian midfield legend Iuliano, and strikers Okabu, Romeo and Felipe Melo. In Luis Garcia they already have a proven goalscorer, with 8 goals this season.
Real Mallorca (4-4-2): Moya, Campano, Fernando Nino, Ramis and Poli, Iuliano, De Los Santos, Arango and Tuni, Luis Garcia and Okubo.
It's a 17:00 kick-off, and although a mild 16C, there's been a slight drizzle this afternoon so the surface might be a little greasy on top. The opening exchanges are confined to midfield and we had to wait until the 8th minute before we had any real goalmouth action. Big strong Juan Rodriguez wins the ball in the midfield and slips it to new boy Fernando who with slight of foot ghosts past three defenders and puts the ball in the path of the supporting Miguel Angel. Moya is first to the ball and the danger passes. Valcarce sends in a tempting cross after 15 minutes, but Moya beats Juan Rodriguez to the ball. Malaga are trying hard but there's a lack of cohesion about their play, probably due to the number of enforced changes, players out of position and first team debuts.
Mallorca's first attempt comes after 20 minutes when Arango takes a free kick 20 yards out, but his shot goes straight into the arms of Arnau. Two minutes later Mallorca have another chance when Iuliano is fouled on the edge of the box. Luis Garcia takes the kick but it bounces off the wall out to Mallorca skipper, Campano, whose strike from 30 yards goes wide.
At the other end, in 24 minutes, Juan Rodriguez is fouled outside the box out on the left. Gerardo's free kick hits the wall, deflected off De Los Santos's outstretched arm but Moya gets behind it. Although there are claims for a penalty, the referee is not interested.
The best chance of the half falls to Juan Rodriguez after 36 minutes, who is on his own 30 yards out when a loose ball falls at his feet. He sends in a rasper, but Moya, who is having a fine game, is able to scramble across his goal to make an excellent save.
Both teams have been huffing and puffing but neither side has seriously threatened the goal with both defences and goalkeepers looking comfortable.
Half time Malaga 0 Mallorca 0.
Malaga start brightly and force a corner a minute after the restart. Miguel Angel takes but again Moya shows safe hands and grabs the ball off the head of nine feet two giant centre back Cesar Navas.
In 52' Valcarce finds some overlapping space wide on the left and his pass finds Fernando, who, spinning round, tries a first time shot that just goes over. Two minutes later, the best move of the match has Miguel Angel in midfield sending a superb through pass, splitting the Mallorca defence right down the middle, to match the perfect run from Fernando. The big Brazilian sees Moya coming off his line and tries to lift it over him but it goes just over the bar.
After 55', Juanito comes off and is replaced by Amoroso.
Amoroso is quick to make an impression and his quick feet mesmerise the Mallorca defence and he finds Fernando in the box. The striker is surrounded by three defenders and can't get the ball away from his feet but the ball spins out to the lurking Miguel Angel whose snapshot just goes wide from 18 yards.
It's been all Malaga since the restart but Mallorca prove that they are dangerous on the break in 60' when Valcarce is booked for a foul on Okabo, who was in full flight. The danger isn't over and there is a bit of pushing and shoving as a wall is constructed for the free-kick with two Mallorca players wanting to help make up the wall. The always impressive Aranga takes the kick and Arnau can only watch as the ball strikes the underside of the bar and bounces clear.
This wake-up call galvanises Malaga back into attack and Amoroso and Michel link up well with neat interpassing down the left. Romero is in support and he takes the pass from Amoroso to unleash a screamer from 30 yards which again forces a great save from Moya. Moya's clearance finds Luis Garcia who releases Campano down the right wing. Valcarce is closing him down and Arnau nervously covers his near post, but the Mallorca captain's powerful drive ends up in the side net.
In 64' it's Amoroso and Michel again combining well down the left. This time the cross finds Fernando, but his first time effort from 12 yards lacks venom and Moya is able to make a comfortable save. That's it for Fernando as he is substituted by Wanchope.
In 72' Okabo is taken off and is replaced by Romeo for Mallorca.
In 75' Michel comes off as Tote is introduced to a great welcoming roar from the crowd.
The team rearranges itself with Wanchope and Amoroso up front with Tote sitting just between them in the "hole". Juan Rodriguez drops back to a more centre midfield role alongside Miguel Angel in a very attacking formation.
In 78' Iuliano goes in with both feet and flattens Miguel Angel out on the left wing. It's a dreadful foul and deserves a red card but the referee shows only a yellow. This brings the crowd to its feet in indignation with cries of "fuera, fuera" (get off) and much waving of white hankies.
In 82' Malaga are looking strong and forcing the play deep into Mallorca's half. Their team formation seems to be working and players are finding team-mates almost intuitively with their passes, in stark contrast to the first half. Amoroso out on the left spots the run of Wanchope and sends a delightful 40 yard pass into his path. Chope is in the clear and bearing down on the keeper. The crowd roars and gets to its feet in anticipation but Wanchope loses his footing at the crucial moment and lands flat on his backside. Enough said!
Full time Malaga 0 Real Mallorca 0
Two points lost at home could be costly. Other results today mean that Malaga remain in 17th place, still looking for a little run of wins to lift them up the table and away from the relegation zone. Next week they have another opportunity when they are away to bottom club Numancia.
Then the following week they return to La Roseleda for the visit of Espanyol. The "other" team from Barcelona have had a good season so far so it will be yet another tough test for the Blue and Whites. Your Malaga CF Correspondent will be there!