Game 34 of 42: nine games remain for Malaga’s future to be determined. Today’s visitors, Elche, are yet another team also trying to escape relegation, but a look at the table will show that, although the promotion spots have all but been decided, there are as many as sixteen teams capable of joining Vecindario in the drop to Segunda B division.
After the success of the team in the past few weeks, since the wake-up 4-1 drubbing by Poli Ejido, Muniz has stuck more or less to a 4-4-2 formation, with more or less the same players. This has resulted in wins against Xerez and Lorca at home, a narrow defeat away to league champions-elect, Valladolid, and last week’s draw at Ponferradina.
For this week’s match, however, he is forced to make some changes as forward Ivan Rosado is injured and out of contention. The Spanish press were speculating who would take his place up front alongside Counago: would it be Chengue Morales, Jonaton Valle or Popo? They were all wrong as Muniz picked Perico!!
Malaga (4-4-2): Goitia; Jesus Gamez, Armando, Jesule and Valcarce; Molinero, Silva, Hidalgo and Calleja; Perico and Counago.
In front of a record crowd of 23,130 spectators, Hidalgo was spotted wearing a new pair of gold boots – perhaps in recognition of the fact that he is now the club’s top goal scorer (notwithstanding the away on loan Salva). Another unusual thing was that Malaga won the toss and elected to defend the Fondo end!
The first goalmouth incident came after 4’ when Perico was fouled some 25 yards out. Calleja took the free kick short with a square pass to Valcarce, who sent in a powerful shot, which was blocked by an unbeknowing defender. From the resultant corner, Silva heads over.
In 6’ Elche, who have been pinned back in their own defence, make a break on the counter-attack and Goitia has to make an intervention to catch winger Alfredo’ cross.
In 7’ Hidalgo bursts through into the opposition’s penalty box. He appears to bring the ball under control with his hand as he goes one on one with goalkeeper Willy. He is booked for handball.
The next minute, Counago, who is sporting an unbecoming Mohican hairstyle, collects the ball in midfield and releases CALLEJA on the left wing, clear on goal. Willy rushes out to the edge of the penalty area and Malaga’s little winger sends a delightful lob over his head and into the net! GOAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!
Malaga 1 Elche 0
It’s the start Malaga and the huge crowd wanted and there is dancing in the stands, much flag waving and drum banging in celebration.
In 14’ Jesule becomes the second Malaga player booked for a body check-type tackle.
In 19’ Molinero uses his red boots to get in a shot from 30 yards but he sends it straight to keeper Willy in the Elche goal.
The next minute brings an even better chance for the home team, who are looking to finish the game off early. Jesus Gamez forces a corner on the right. Left winger Calleja takes and sends his cross long to the back post where Hidalgo is standing on his own for a free header, which goes wide.
In 22’ Elche left winger Alfredo again causes problems when he beats Jesus Gamez on the wing and manages to squeeze in a shot that Goitia has to get down to block at the post.
In 23’ Silva becomes Malaga’s third booking for tugging an opponent’s shirt in midfield.
In 25’ Perico, who is chasing lost causes and turning nothing into something, forces Elche to concede another corner. This time it is Hidalgo who takes the kick but sends it too long for Calleja at the far post.
In 28’ Counago is tripped in the box after cleverly kicking the ball over a defender’s head. No penalty.
In 32’ there are ironic cheers from the crowd when the referee awards a free kick to Malaga after a foul on Hidalgo. It has seemed that all decisions were going Elche’s way to that point and that their players were escaping bookings for similar offences that had brought Malaga’s total to three inside the first half an hour.
In 36’ Elche make their first substitution, replacing right back Mario for Oscar Diaz. The young right back had been roasted by Calleja down Malaga’s left wing.
In 39’ Elche’s first booking when their diminutive striker Peragon (not of virtue, then) is shown the yellow card for a high tackle on Armando.
In 41’ Perico wins another free kick in a good position. Calleja takes it and finds Hidalgo standing clear. The attacking midfielder sends in a powerful goal bound drive which forces Willy to make a spectacular one handed diving save to deny Hidalgo a certain goal.
Half-time Malaga 1 Elche 0
It’s been a quick first half with Malaga slightly on top, but Elche have shown that they can be dangerous on the counter-attack and the 1-0 lead is looking a little slender.
Elche make their second substitution at halftime. Winger Alfredo is replaced by striker Gascon Casas, who along with fellow striker, Peragon, have scored 16 times in the league between them this season.
In 53’ Elche’s counter-attacking causes concern again as Gascon Casas makes his presence felt with a long range effort that has Goitia diving to block the shot low down at his left hand post.
In 54’ Perico, who looks exhausted, is replaced by Serbian U-21 International Stosic, to loud cheers from the home support.
In 56’ some smart interpassing between Jesus Gamez and Molinero down the right wing produces a shot from the winger, but Willy gathers it easily.
In 59’, one of those bizarre moments. Counago is tripped some 30 yards out central to the goal. The penalty box becomes crowded with attackers and defenders, all jostling for position. It’s not inconceivable that Hidalgo might try a shot from the free kick either, so there is an air of anticipation as he lines up to take the kick. But, catching everybody by surprise, Hidalgo elects to pass short and square to his right to……..Mr Nobody!?! He was expecting Jesus Gamez to be there, but the full back was back in his own half covering Gascon Casas’ movements.
In the next little spell, Malaga seem to lose concentration and go to sleep, allowing Elche to get more into the game. This has been symptomatic of Malaga’s season and has cost them several points and games. Is it something they put in their tea at half-time? Perhaps somebody should look into this. Elche look the more confident side – they are closing down all over the pitch and winning every second ball. Elche have several shots during a five minute period that were either blocked by some last ditch defending or were not on target. Malaga were lucky to escape this period without conceding a goal.
In 64’ Gascon Casas again forces a save from Goitia, again with another spectacular long range effort. The Malaga ‘keeper has to stretch full length to stop the ball on the goal-line.
In 66’ I’m starting to get irritated with Counago’s continual falling over and looking for free kicks. How he is still considered a hero at Ipswich Town is beyond me. Somebody call a taxi for Portman Road, quickly, please!
In 67’ Muniz must be reading my thoughts as he brings on giant Uruguayan Chengue Morales for Counago. Elche’s Oscar Diaz is booked for a dangerous tackle on Jesus Gamez.
In 69’ Jesule becomes Malaga’s fourth booking for what looked an innocuous challenge.
Malaga continue to play without shape or organisation and are desperately hanging on to their slender lead as Elche continue to dominate the second half.
In 70’ Stosic, who has looked lively since coming on, bursts into the penalty area. With skilful feet, he beats the first defender and is about to go round a second when he is scythed down. It’s the best and clearest penalty claim that Malaga have had all season. No penalty given, “Play on”, says the ref.
In 72’ Goitia performs another miracle to keep Malaga in the game as Peragon races into the box and shoots whilst Malaga stop playing shouting at the referee for freekick decisions that this referee was never going to give to Malaga today.
In 73’ it’s Malaga who are forced to counter-attack. The sprightly Stosic picks up a pass from Chengue in the centre circle. With nobody in support the young Serb runs the entire half of the park chased by two defenders. He runs into the box where the two defenders try to sandwich him off the ball. Somehow Stosic squirms out from between them to get a shot on target, but it has no power and Willy collects easily.
It’s the wake-up call that Malaga needed though and three minutes later Calleja has a fine run down the left wing. Stosic is there to support him and gets to the by-line to send in an excellent cross. He’s big, he’s at least 8’3” and he was waiting in position at the far post. Stosic’s cross was right on the button and CHENGUE made no mistake with his header from six yards, giving Willy no chance.
Malaga 2 Elche 0
Whew! The breathing space that Malaga needed.
In 77’ Armando becomes Malaga’s fifth booking for a dangerous tackle on the half-way line.
In 78’ Elche make their final substitution, taking off defender Bernaus for midfielder Katkorran.
In 79’ Goitia has to make another diving save to stop another spectacular long range effort from Gascon Casas.
His strike partner, Peragon, has a free header from a cross from the left in 80’ which luckily for Malaga goes wide.
Peragon has another free header in 83’, this time from a cross from the right. Again the striker sees his effort go wide.
Then Peragon has his best opportunity of the game. Goitia has already gone to ground and the goal is wide-open. The Elche striker inexplicably shoots wide.
Malaga are very fortunate to survive this latest barrage and only poor finishing is keeping Elche out of this game. The huge crowd though seems oblivious to Malaga’s shortcomings on the field and are celebrating with some impressive Mexican Waves around the ground.
Then in 86’ Malaga have another chance to go further ahead. Stosic (who has been Malaga’s most impressive player going forward since he came on as a sub) is fouled near the right corner flag. There are shouts of “Chengue, Chengue” around the ground as the big Uruguayan takes up his position at the far post. Stosic takes the kick but the Elche defence clear the ball to safety.
The next minute Chengue does get his head to a Hidalgo free kick but his effort goes just wide.
In 89’ Molinero and Stosic combine with neat 1-2’s resulting in Willy having to kick the ball into Row Z to desperately clear from his goal-line.
In 90’ Chengue becomes the sixth Malaga player to be booked, when he kicks the ball away after a dubious offside decision.
In 91’ Molinero is substituted for Manu.
In 93’ Goitia makes another fine save from a dramatic overhead kick from Peragon.
Full-time Malaga 2 Elche 0
An excellent result for Malaga, despite living a bit too dangerously for long periods of the game. However, the win keeps their hopes of evading the dreaded drop alive and actually sees them climb to a respectable 14th position in the table. But with eight games to go and every other team also fighting hard, it’s still too early to say that Malaga are going to be safe. Next week they face the difficult journey up to the historic city of Salamanca and then a crunch game the following week away to Real Madrid Castilla, which may go a long way to determining Malaga’s future. Sky viewers will be able to watch this game live on Real Madrid TV – I know I will.
The next home game is in three weeks’ time against bottom club and already relegated, Vecindario. Malaga were lucky to get a draw in Gran Canaria when they met earlier in the season. Never fear, Your Malaga CF Correspondent will be there.
La Segunda Table after 34 games:
1º Valladolid 77
2º Almería 64
3º Murcia 63
4º C. de Murcia 51
5º Numancia 49
6º Salamanca 48
7º Albacete 48
8º Cádiz 48
9º Xerez 47
10º Hércules 46
11º Castellón 45
12º Pol. Ejido 45
13º Tenerife 45
14º Málaga 43
15º Elche 43
16º Sporting 43
17º Alavés 42
18º Las Palmas 41
19º RM Castilla 41
20º Ponferradina 35
21º Lorca 31
22º Vecindario 22
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