Real Betis couldn’t have picked a better place to pick up their first league win in two months as they saw off Andalusian rivals Malaga in the derby at La Rosaleda on Monday night.
Malaga, who had been on a run themselves (unbeaten at home since October), came into the game on the back of an impressive win away to Real Sociedad last week. They started the game brightest and ought to have taken the lead when Jose Recio freed himself of his marker from Chory Castro’s corner kick, but headed wide from the penalty spot when it was easier to score.
Keko, though, missed a clearer chance when the ball broke kindly for him after Adalberto Penaranda had his shot blocked, but his strike missed the far post by inches.
The visitors, who enjoyed the possession without creating chances, then hit back on virtually their first attack. It was former Malaga winger Joaquin’s through pass that set Sergio Leon free in behind Diego Gonzalez and forward’s first-time shot crept under the hand of Roberto into the back of the net.
The Malaga stopper, who didn’t have his best game, was the centre of attention again when he clawed Joaquin’s whipped freekick back into play after it had crossed the line. Superb save, but the goal should have stood and the hosts could breathe a sigh of relief.
The reprieve didn’t last long and the visitors capitalised on Malaga’s lack of organisation after Adrian went off injured: a neat ball into Antonio Barragan on the right side of the area was sent straight back across the face of goal for Victor Camarasa to head into a virtually empty net.
This prompted Malaga coach Michel into action, introducing Javi Ontiveros and Youssef En-Nesyri before 65 minutes had passed, putting all of his eggs in one basket with no substitutions remaining.
However, this made little difference to the game with Betis showing their resilience and know-how to wind down the clock.
Barring a speculative effort from Gonzalez, Malaga created nothing and Betis, in fact, would have scored a third in stoppage time had someone got on the end of Nahuel’s ball across the face of goal.
The win lifts Real Betis to a lofty 8th place, but with just six points separating them and 17th–placed Deportivo, a lot can change.
Malaga must now prepare for the six-pointer away at Deportivo Alaves on Thursday night.