With the pressure of a relegation battle off their shoulders, Malaga inflicted a shock 2-0 defeat on Real Sociedad in front of their disgruntled fans at La Rosaleda on Sunday afternoon.
Despite having their relegation to Segunda confirmed on Friday, Malaga produced one of their best performances of the season in front of a half empty stadium with those inside keen to voice their displeasure at the club’s management on all levels.
The official supporters’ clubs in the designated stand were absent at kick off but emerged after five minutes with their planned protest, filling the ground with noise, directing their ire at owner Sheikh Al-Thani, manager Jose Gonzalez and sporting director Mario Husillos.
On the pitch, however, this seemed to stir the home side who had to resist some early pressure from the away side and especially Adnan Januzaj who tried his luck from range on a number of occasions. After winning a corner from a counterattack, the ball broke to defender Luis Hernandez on the edge of the box, who flicked it over the back line for Adrian to bring it down on his chest before smashing it past Geronimo Rulli.
The goal brought a strangely mixed reaction from the crowd, going against their narrative of castigating the club for the relegation.
The drama continued in the 23rd minute when Malaga keeper Roberto conceded an indirect free kick for picking up a misplaced Manuel Iturra pass. From the resultant set piece, Sergio Canales hit the ball over both the wall and the cross bar.
Malaga doubled their led in the 33rd minute after Sociedad’s Hector Moreno conceded a corner. Though the initial set piece was wasted, Malaga won the second ball and Chory Castro whipped in a cross straight into the path of Youssef En-Nesyri who fired the ball emphatically past Rulli to make it 2-0.
Midfielder Keko replaced Chory at the break and made an immediate impact, threading the ball through for Maxime Lestienne down the left whose shot was tipped over the bar by Rulli.
La Real, whose manager Imanol Alguacil made three changes early in the second half, tried to force their way back into the game with David Zurutuza almost clawing a goal back after he turning neatly in the box, before flashing his shot wide from a tight angle.
Despite enjoying the lion’s share of the possession, the visitors struggled to find the break they needed. Defender Diego Llorente, making his return to La Rosaleda, came closest – his header from a free kick drifted just wide to Roberto’s relief.
With stoppage time on the horizon, Malaga almost bagged a third when Keko sprinted down the right and hung up a delightful chip to the back stick where the unmarked En-Nesyri had all the goal to aim at. Unfortunately for the young Moroccan, his header sailed harmlessly wide of the right-hand post.
The victory certainly didn’t pacify the fans who continued to voice their displeasure at full time. Undoubtedly the defeat also left a feeling of what might have been.