Los Boquerones : Rondon the hero as Malaga reach Champions League
Malaga went into the last week of the season knowing that a win over relegation threatened Sporting Gijon, at the Rosaleda would guarantee Champions league football next season.
The Malaga fans were expecting a home win, and ahead of the game, blue and white banners where placed all over the city in anticipation of a massive party for the team qualifying for Europe’s elite competition for the first ever time.
Added pressure was put on the club by Uefa officials, who were attending the game to inspect the club to make sure the stadium and the staff were up to scratch ahead of European football next season.
The home side were boosted by the return of key central defender Joris Mathijsen from injury, and the Dutchman went straight back into the starting eleven alongside Isco, who was returning from suspension.
Line up v Sporting: Kameni, Gamez, Demichelis, Mathijsen, Monreal, Camacho, Cazorla, Isco, Joaquin, Eliseu, Rondon
The first half was a cagey affair, as both teams were nervous ,with such huge expectations on the shoulders of both clubs at contrasting ends of the table and it wasn’t until the 27th minute that an opportunity was created, however it fell to defender Martin Demichelis and he struck the post
The half time score of 0-0 would have been good enough for 4th place, but with Levante winning a Sporting goal would mean Malaga fell out of the top four and their dream of Champions league would be over.
Luckily for Malaga it only took four minutes of the second half before they had the lead, with often criticised striker Salomon Rondon heading in his 12th goal of the season from a Santi Cazorla corner to erupt the Rosaleda crowd.
Even though midfielder Isco was sent off the home side saw out the match and the 1-0 victory ensured not only champions league football for the hosts, but relegation for the visitors.
A final appearance in the second half by striker Ruud van Nistelrooy was warmly received by the home crowd with the legendary Dutchman set to announce his retirement later this week.
At the end of a brilliant season for the anchovies they will compete in the Champion’s League next season, and face a summer of more spending by oil rich owner Skeik Abdullah el Thani.
Who knows with a few key signings the team from Andalusia could be competing with the top two next year, and fans will be discussing in the bars just how far this team can go in the Champions league all summer.
One thing is for sure the city of Malaga will be the place to be this summer, with celebrations sure to take place over the coming weeks in the city centre famous amongst tourists for its partying.