Valencia came back from a goal down to win late in a tricky tie against bottom side Malaga on Saturday night. The hosts bagged the go-ahead goal in the first half, but a tactical switch from Marcelino and a red card for Ignasi Miquel meant Los Che left Andalusia with all three points.
Backed by the home crowd, Jose Gonzalez’s team started strongest with debutant Maxime Lestienne making his debut on the right-hand side, providing some of the pace which has been lacking for much of the season so far.
The Belgian, who joined on deadline day, linked well with Brown Ideye in the early phases – another player who has started to deliver on what he was brought in to do. The Nigerian held up the ball well and provided a threat from set pieces. Despite being closely watched, Ideye won his fair share of headers, though none on target.
However, when Recio’s corner came in low, Ideye was on hand to poke his toe at the ball which crept in just inside the far post before the half-hour mark.
Malaga were comfortable with their lead, though ceding a few half chances to Gonçalo Guedes. The first was a toe poke from the corner of the box which Roberto caught from just under his crossbar. The second was dragged wide as Roberto Rosales and Luis Hernández slid to close him down.
The hosts started the second half with more energy, demonstrated by Youssef En-Nesyri’s enthusiasm in going for goal from the half-way line. He would have been wiser, though, to keep possession as the ball went out for a throw on the opposite side.
Moments later came the turning point. After Diego González’s goal was controversially ruled out for a push by Ideye, Valencia boss Marcelino took action and made a double change. Both forwards Luciano Vietto and Santi Mina were removed for the more robust pairing of Simone Zaza and Rodrigo.
The former came close to levelling the scores when he neatly turned and shot just inside the area, hitting his effort inches past the right-hand post.
Now committing more men to the attack, the visitors forced Malaga onto the back foot and the pressure eventually told with ten minutes to go. Former Arsenal man Francis Coquelin headed home Dani Parejo’s corner kick at the near post to silence inside La Rosaleda.
No-one inside the ground was remotely surprised by the setback and with the side struggling for goals all year, both team and fans were resigned to letting yet another three points slip.
There was still tine for things to get much worse and when Rodrigo was body checked in the area by Ignasi Miquel, there was only one option for referee Daniel Trujillo. Miquel was shown red and Dani Parejo had a chance from 12 yards. Roberto guessed the right way, but the ball nestled into the side netting.
There was still time for late drama and Rosales didn’t disappoint from the dead ball. The Venezuelan’s first freekick was headed over in front of the keeper by González and with seconds remaining, the crowd ushered Roberto forward for the final kick of the game. The keeper leapt highest to connect with the dead ball but his header floated just wide of Neto’s left post.
A false storm for La Liga’s bottom club. Despite the match having a feel of one of the upsets of the good old days, the unsurprising second-half capitulation serves as a reminder why this side is headed for the second division.
Malaga: Roberto; Rosales, Luis Hernandez, Miquel, Gonzalez; Lestienne (Keko, 68′), Recio (Lacen, 73′), Iturra, Chory Castro (Rolan, 83′); Ideye, En-Nesyri.
Valencia: Neto; Vezo, Paulista, Murillo, Gaya; Soler (Ferran, 80′), Parejo, Coquelin, Guedes; Vietto (Rodrigo, 60′), Santi Mina (Zaza, 60′).
Goals: 1-0 Ideye (27′); 1-1 Coquelin (80′), 1-2 Parejo (85′).
Ground: La Rosaleda (21,134 spectators)