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La Liga: Málaga find form

Manuel Pellegrini’s side push for a European place with a 2-1 win over Sevilla.

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Pellegrini can breathe a bit more easily after beating Sevilla.

The second Andalusian derby in just over a week saw not only local bragging rights at stake but with one point separating them in the standings, Málaga and Sevilla were each looking to strike a psychological blow in the race for a European place.

Both clubs have been struggling of late and with the race for Europe only set to intensify, it was a heated affair.

Over the summer Málaga coach Manuel Pellegrini brought in former Real Madrid and Manchester United striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy and he spoke enthusiastically of the team that the club are building. The high-profile signing brought much attention but for the 35-year-old, goals are a lot harder to come by than they used to be and he has so far only hit the target twice in the league.

Santi Cazorla also joined the Qatari revolution at Los Boquerones, signing for a club-record fee of a reported €20 million. The Spanish international was joined by Valencia winger Joaquín Sánchez and French international Jérémy Toulalan.

Yet, despite the high-profile new signings and with Manchester City-esque expectations, Pellegrini’s side have not had a good start to the year. Knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Real Madrid, garnering just one point from three games and going into the match at the weekend on a six game winless streak; their last victory came at the end of November.

But visitors Sevilla are also struggling. A blistering start saw Málaga deservedly take the lead when Weligton headed a free-kick from the right flank past Javi Varas. A dummy by Sevilla’s Álvaro Negredo allowed Antonio Luna to slip in to fire home at the second attempt, having seen his initial shot saved by Willy Caballero – who is still between the posts despite the recent signing of Espanyol’s Carlos Kameni.

Three minutes later, Málaga took a 2-1 lead with Rondon beating the offside trap and finding Seba Fernández, who squeezed the ball over the line just three minutes later. A nervy finish ensued when Málaga were reduced to 10 men when Isco was sent off for a brutal challenge on Negredo. Soon after, Sevilla looked to have drawn level but Andújar Coke’s header was ruled out for offside.

Málaga’s first victory over Sevilla at La Rosaleda in seven years lifted them above their neighbours in La Liga standings and up to seventh.

Sevilla are now without a win in six matches, dropping into the bottom half of the standings.

The roles have also reversed between Real Madrid and Barcelona it seems. A week ago, it was Madrid who were under intense media pressure as there was talk of a “mole” within the camp and of José Mourinho leaving the club in the summer, just days before they were due to travel to the Camp Nou for the return leg of Copa del Rey quarter finals. Barcelona fans predicted a whitewash while Madridistas demanded a comeback.

A 2-2 draw saw Madrid eliminated from the cup on aggregate, but the performance, the team’s best against Barcelona in recent years, saw the media pressure ease on Mourinho.

But after the high of the Copa win, Barça dropped two points in the league to fall seven points behind Madrid after being held to a 0-0 draw by Villarreal at El Madrigal.

The pressure is now firmly on the Blaugrana. They cannot afford to drop more points in what is set to be a tough schedule in the coming weeks.

Elsewhere, new coach Abel Resino enjoyed a great start to life at Granada as his side defeated rivals Real Betis 2-1 to climb out of the bottom three.

Granada took a deserved 2-0 half-time lead with goals from Odion Ighalo and Carlos Martins before Betis pulled a goal back with nine minutes remaining through substitute Jonathan Pereira. Granada, however, held on for the victory, which saw them move out of the bottom three, and was only their sixth win of the season.

Manuel Preciado is under increasing pressure following Sporting Gijón’s 5-1 defeat at Real Sociedad. David Zurutuza scored twice in the opening three minutes for the hosts with Gorka Elustondo, Mikel Aranburu and Antoine Griezmann all adding to the tally.

RESULTS:

Málaga CF 2 – 1 Sevilla FC

Racing Santander 2 – 2 Valencia CF

Real Sociedad 5 – 1 Sporting Gijón

Levante UD 1 – 2 Getafe CF

Real Betis 1 – 2 Granada CF

Villarreal CF 0 – 0 FC Barcelona

Real Madrid 3 – 1 Real Zaragoza

Rayo Vallecano 2 – 3 Athletic Bilbao

RCD Espanyol 1 – 0 RCD Mallorca





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Published: Jan 31 2012
Category: Sports, Spain News
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=5323
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