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Jornada 30: Malaga vs. Xerez

After last week’s humiliating defeat at Poli Ejido, it was back to La Rosaleda for another crunch match at home to Xerez. The team from the sherry capital of the world were the early front runners and currently lying in fourth position just outside the three automatic promotion spots, they are still looking to improve their lot and gain promotion this season.
Malaga’s squad for this week’s game held several promises, as far as I’m concerned. Firstly, Sandro was dropped, presumably for giving the last goal away last week. Also Edgar had picked up a late injury and was out. There was also no place for Jonaton Valle. These are three players who have contributed very little to the team this season and yet have played in almost every game, so for me these omissions were good news. Silva had not recovered from his ankle knock in last week’s game and was also out, so Muniz was forced to make some changes. In his squad he named three of the club’s most promising teenagers; defensive midfielder Gascon, attacking midfielder Popo and striker Plata.
The big surprise in the squad was Manu, who had publicly stated before the season started that he wanted away from Malaga and was going to leave under Bosman when his contract runs out in June 2007. Malaga tried to terminate his contract early and let him go in the January window but the two parties couldn’t agree terms and the right winger is still in the squad. Manu must have played under at least six Malaga managers and none of them have seen fit to give him a run in the team, so it is questionable, even though he may be physically and mentally fit, whether he should be in the squad.
The league situation is as follows: the bottom four teams are automatically relegated, i.e. there are no play-offs. The bottom two teams, Lorca with 25 points and Vecindario with 19 points, already look doomed. Ponferradina and Castellon have 30 and 32 points respectively against Malaga’s 33. Malaga must gain points and hope that these two teams lose to open up some sort of comfort gap. There are 13 games left in the league, including today’s game, so it is going to be a nail-biting last quarter of the season.

There was an amazing 17,795 crowd in La Rosaleda for Sunday’s game against their Andalucian rivals, Xerez. Imagine the crowd if Real Madrid were playing….. dream on, just now.
You may remember the away game in Jerez earlier in the season, which finished with 5 sent off between the two teams. Better discipline was to be hoped for in a game played in 25C heat and brilliant sunshine.
Muniz sprang two surprises with his line-up. First, Molinero, a right back, was drafted in to play on the right wing to replace the injured Edgar. Secondly, he again had the team set up in 4-4-2 formation. The good news was that Goitia was given another chance ahead of Arnau in goal, despite losing four goals last week:
Malaga (4-4-2): Goitia; Jesus Gamez, Armando, Jesule and Valcarce; Molinero, Hidalgo, Gascon and Calleja; Rosado and Counago.
It was Xerez who sprung a surprise with a 4-5-1 line-up, with only Yordi up front. This defensive set-up against a lowly team seems over cautious, but possibly to Malaga’s advantage in the circumstances.
Malaga win the toss and it’s the red shirted Xerez team who kick off defending the Fondo end. They are first to show in the first minute when Goitia comes off his line to punch a dangerous cross from the right clear.
However, Malaga go even closer in the second minute. Rosado makes a break down the left wing and sends in a delightful cross to Molinero at the far post. The red-booted one passes back to Hidalgo standing on the 18 yard line. The midfielder tries to reprise last week’s goal, but this time his shot comes off the junction of the bar and post with goalkeeper Chiema beaten.
In 3’ Malaga force the first corner of the game, but Counago heads over.
It’s all Malaga and Counago breaks down the right in 9’ to get to the touchline. He crosses to his strike partner Rosado in the six yard box but he heads just over.
Malaga should have scored in the next minute when the panicking visiting defence manage to scramble the ball away after both Hidalgo and Counago have close range efforts blocked.
In 11’ Malaga keep up the pressure on Xerez’s goal and Counago bursts into the box from the left wing. He’s tackled and goes down heavily. Penalty? Corner given, from which Xerez need three attempts to clear their goalmouth. Even then Calleja is fouled just outside the box. The former Villarreal star takes the kick himself and forces Chiema to save just under his bar.
We are all looking at each other and saying that this is the best we have seen of Malaga all season. Let’s hope they can keep it up and get the goal they deserve.
In 13’ Xerez win their first corner to remind us all that they can be a threat.
In 15’ Gascon finds Jesus Gamez on the half way line. The full back sprints forward with the ball and cuts it inside to Molinero who is running in support. Molinero pushes the ball forward to Rosado who puts a defence splitting pass between two defenders through to COUNAGO who makes no mistake from six yards, squeezing his shot between Chiema and the post. GO--------AA-----LLLLL!!!! It’s a great passing move and a great finish and no more than Malaga deserve for their start.
Malaga 1 Xerez 0
In 17’ the first booking of the game is Francis for a foul on Gascon.
In 18’ we’re on our feet again as Rosado cheekily lifts the ball over Chiema’s head and into the net. But the linesman’s flag is up for offside.
In 25’ Rosado, who’s having his best game yet in a Malaga shirt is sandwiched between two Xerez defenders as he enters the box and goes down. Penalty? No foul, play on, says the ref.
Two minutes later, Calleja runs into the box from the left wing with the ball and is brought down. Penalty? Corner. Calleja takes a swerving inswinger corner kick which Chiema does well to punch the ball clear from under his bar.
The first half hour has gone very quickly and it’s been all Malaga who deserve more than a single goal lead.
In 36’ Counago’s header flies past Chiema and into the net after a superb quick passing move involving Rosado and Valcarce, but again the linesman’s flag is up for what must have been a marginal offside decision.
In 42’ Malaga’s first booking is Rosado for a tackle from behind. From the free kick, Goitia has to look lively to palm the shot over the bar.
In 45’ Xerez play on to jeers and whistles as Jesus Gamez lies slumped at the half way line near the touchline. The full back looks groggy and concussed and needs several minutes of attention off the field.
Half-time Malaga 1 Xerez 0
Jesus Gamez returns revived after his half an orange during the interval.
In 49’ Calleja, who looks tired, with no pace or running in him, collects a through pass from Rosado. The winger’s effort though is closer to the corner flag than the goal.
In 50’ Molinero’s name goes into the book for a dangerous tackle. From the free kick, Yordi manages to escape Jesule, who has kept him quiet all game so far, and get in a header, but it goes well over.
In 52’ Yordi tries an audacious attempt from the centre circle, spotting Goitia off his line, but the keeper gets back to catch the ball comfortably.
Xerez continue to attack Malaga’s goal and in 55’ Pedro Rios goes close, hitting the side netting with his shot.
Malaga continue to weather the storm and after Yordi wins a free kick in 57’ after the ball hits him in the face!?! Goitia makes an easy collection from the kick. He kicks it out to Calleja who is promptly scythed down by Pedro Rios, who gets booked for his trouble.
In 62’ Pedro Rios is subbed and Marcos Navas replaces him.
In 65’ Counago comes off to an ovation to be replaced by Perico.
This change changes the character of the game. Malaga revert to a 4-2-3-1 formation and are no longer chasing a second goal but defending the 1-0 lead. So yet again, we poor fans have to live through the next 25 minutes praying that no mistakes are made at the back.
Xerez respond with route one football – missing out the midfield and aiming at target man Yordi down the middle.
But in 73’ Jesule should have scored when he was given a free header from a Hidalgo corner.
The next minute produces an even better chance for Malaga when Valcarce breaks down the left wing. His powerful cross flies over Perico and Rosado in the centre of the box, but lands at the feet of Molinero at the far post. He connects beautifully and Chiema makes a fine save.
In 75’ Xerez make two substitutions, most notably bringing on Swiss international striker and former Malaga B player, Giejo, to loud jeers and whistles from the home crowd. Xerez change to 4-4-2 as they try to get something from the game.
In 83’ Molinero is replaced by local boy (from Fuengirola) Manu, to a loud reception from the crowd.
Whilst the change is being made, Goitia was waiting to take a free kick. The referee runs up and shows him the yellow card for taking too long to take the kick!
In 87’ Valcarce is lucky not to be sent off for pushing over a Xerez player off the ball. He receives a yellow card.
In 88’ Calleja is replaced by veteran Argentine centre back Schurrer, as Malaga go five at the back with three centre backs!
In 90’ all Malaga’s good work is almost undone as a through ball lands at Schurrer’s feet on the 18 yard line. For some reason he expects Goitia to come off his line to collect the ball, even though Yordi is running in. For a split second, disaster loomed as it was clear that Goitia had no chance of getting to the ball before Yordi. Luckily, Jesule was aware enough to dash across the box and hoof the ball into Row Z.
In 92’ Giejo was booked, much to the pleasure of the crowd, for a foul on Armando.
In 93’ there was an even bigger cheer, when the referee blew for full time!
Full-time: Malaga 1 Xerez 0

A good win for Malaga and the importance of it became clear when it was discovered that both Ponferradina and Castellon had also won. So Malaga retain just a one point advantage over their nearest rival for that dreaded fourth relegation spot. Still it was a win and a better performance after the depths of last week’s result. Muniz hopefully might have learned that his team has improved with Arnau, Edgar, Sandro and Jonaton Valle missing. In my view, Calleja should also be on a shaky hook, as Ernesto on the left wing would provide more pace, more threat and more direct running than the present incumbent.
Next week, Malaga face the long trip north to La Segunda leaders and promotion favourites Valladolid, who are twelve points clear at the top of the table. Winning there will need a miracle and there is the possibility that after the game Malaga may drop into the relegation zone, depending on how Castellon fare.
The following week, Malaga are back at home to second bottom club, Lorca. Never fear, Your Malaga CF Correspondent will be there.