After five successive league defeats at La Rosaleda Málaga finally picked up their first home points of the season with a 1-0 victory over Levante. The win also lifted them off the bottom of the table and out of the relegation zone, making it two wins out of two for new coach Manuel Pellegrini following Thursday’s 3-2 defeat of Hércules in the Copa del Rey.
In a cautious opening 20 minutes the only chance of note fell to the away side when ex-Málaga striker Caicedo somehow contrived to head over from directly under the bar. Apoño then went close for Málaga when his free kick was saved by Reina and shortly afterwards Caicedo was again involved, taking advantage of some hesitancy in the home defence to charge down keeper Arnau’s clearance. Fortunately for the Costa del Sol side the ball landed on the roof of the net.
Málaga had looked particularly toothless up front and after a goalless first half Pellegrini hauled off his two strikers, Baha and Fernández, replacing them with Edinho and Quincy. However, it was the visitors that almost broke the deadlock just after the restart when another former Málaga man Valdo had a header that came back off the woodwork; the home side’s Gámez then headed narrowly wide as the game finally sparked to life.
The breakthrough eventually came on 63 minutes, though in controversial circumstances. With Levante player Juanlu lying injured after a tackle from Gámez, Eliseu cut in from the right and unleashed a powerful left-footed shot low into the corner of the net for his second goal of the season – equal with the number of red cards he’s received. The Levante players were incensed the Málaga players hadn’t kicked the ball out of play, but the referee ruled quite rightly that Juanlu was feigning injury.
Edinho, Eliseu and Quincy all had chances to seal the match in the final 15 minutes, and they were almost made to pay for the missed opportunities in added time. A last-gasp free kick was delivered into the Málaga area and Valdo’s downward header was pushed onto the underside of the bar by Arnau to earn his side all three points.
After the game manager Pellegrini declared himself happy with the outcome, although he recognised that Levante probably deserved a draw: “We are satisfied with results for now,” he said. “It’s difficult to instill new ideas into the players in such a short period of time, but we’ve won two home games, something we hadn’t done before. We were also pleased to keep a clean sheet” he added.
Málaga now face two consecutive away games at Deportivo and Mallorca before Racing Santander visit La Rosaleda in the first week of December.
Author of ‘Málaga Football Club – The Story.’