Málaga 1-2 Espanyol: Pericos step closer to Europe, Boquerones still in a fix
Málaga and Espanyol traded plenty of blows, but it was the visitors who edged themselves ahead, just after the first half hour. The home side pulled level just two minutes later though and in the second half, Espanyol made the most of better chances to take the lead again. Málaga couldn’t find a reply this time and their cause wasn’t aided, with Pablo Pérez dismissed with twelve minutes to go.
Early tests for the defence at both ends, as Málaga and Espanyol made an intense start to the game at La Rosaleda. A long throw into the area almost opened the scoring for Espanyol in the 5th minute, as none of the Málaga defenders could react, but neither could a visiting forward get a toe on the ball, with keeper Willy forced to clear however he could. Samual went to ground in the area in the 8th minute for the home side, but the referee felt the Espanyol challenge was fair.
After Pizzi squandered a finish in the 10th minute, following a lovely Espanyol move, Málaga started to assert themselves more on the game. Darder whizzed an effort just wide from distance in the 17th minute, then Antunes did the same in the 22nd minute.
With Málaga trying to slow the pace of the game down, playing out from the back, they had a good spell of possession, but couldn’t create any real danger as the game reached the half-hour mark. Darder fired another shot from distance wide, but with the next attack, it was Espanyol who took the lead in the 32nd minute. Stuani causing problems for the home defence, just outside the area, before slotting the ball to the run of Sergio García, who drove the finish past a helpless Willy.
The joy wasn’t to last long for Espanyol however, as in the 34th minute, Málaga struck themselves back on level terms. Pablo Pérez beat the offside trap on the edge of the area and though it was a tight call, the flag stayed down and he fired across Casilla and into the back of the net.
Approaching the interval, the best chances came for Espanyol, but the first in the 38th minute was denied well by Willy, as Pizzi went through on goal. The next in the 41st minute came after a corner. Sidnei trying to apply the finish, which took a deflection and forced the Málaga keeper to make another reaction save.
At the end of the half, a delay after Málaga midfielder Darder struck a powerful ball that hit David López in the stomach, pole-axing the Espanyol player and caused the referee to pause the game, whilst he received treatment.
Out for the second half, Espanyol had much of the early attacking momentum, but without creating any real problems. Stuani fired off-target in the 56th minute, before Málaga responded in the 59th minute at the other end, with a stinging shot from Portillo, which Casilla couldn’t save cleanly, but managed to grab at the second attempt, with the forward looking to take another bite at goal.
Espanyol were the first to start a period of moves from the bench in the 65th minute, as Abraham came on for Córdoba and Aguirre reshaped his side to a 4-2-3-1 formation. Málaga then followed suit in the 68th minute with a double change, as Schuster sent on Iakovenko for Samuel and Eliseu replaced Weligton.
The answer to which changes would make the most impact was soon given, when in the 76th minute, Espanyol took the lead once more. Sergio García with a good burst forward towards the area, before threading the pass to the run of Pizzi, who applied a superbly struck finish that gave Willy absolutely no chance.
In the 78th minute, things went from bad to worse for Málaga, when Pablo Pérez collected a second yellow card, forced to head for an early shower after a poorly timed challenge.
More changes then as El Hamdaoui became Schuster’s last introduction from the bench, on for Antunes and everything focused on attack for Málaga. Espanyol made their second change in the 83rd minute, as Álex came on for David López.
Iakovenko had a great chance to score in the 86th minute, turning his marker inside the Espanyol, but unable to get Málaga back on level terms, off-target with the finish. The home side, despite being a man down, still threw everything forward, but still couldn’t claw a way back, as Espanyol made their final change in the 90th minute, with Torje on for Pizzi. Running out of huff and puff to blow the Espanyol house down, it was the visitors who could have added another deep into stoppage time, but Stuani couldn’t make the most of a difficult from the left.
Another home defeat for Málaga and more disappointment for the home fans, who see their team still hovering just four points above the relegation zone. Espanyol meanwhile have plenty of reasons to be happy, having reached 40 points, almost certainly safe from the scrap in the bottom half of the table and even a step closer towards a push for Europe.
Málaga 1-2 Espanyol
Referee: Delgado Ferreiro
Málaga XI: Willy; Angeleri, Flávio, Weligton (68′), Antunes (80′); Samuel (68′), Darder, P.Pérez, Amrabat; Portillo, Santa Cruz.
Goals: Pablo Pérez (34′)
Subs: Iakovenko (68′), Eliseu (68′), El Hamdaoui (80′)
Yellow Cards: Pablo Pérez (51′, 78′), Iakovenko (92′)
Espanyol XI: Casilla; J.López, Sidnei, H.Moreno, Fuentes; Stuani, V.Sánchez, D.López (83′), Pizzi (90′); Córdoba (65′), Sergio García.
Goals: Sergio García (34′), Pizzi (76′)
Subs: Abraham (65′), Álex (83′), Torje (90′)
Yellow Cards: Stuani (15′)