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Things finally begin to look up for unbeaten Malaga as Champions League windfall awaits
- Updated: 26 August, 2012
The threat of strike action may have been averted in recent weeks, however, there are still many disgruntled parties to be found in La Liga. Understandably, most of the unrest stems from the Spanish Football Federation’s decision to sanction a number of games at the controversial time of 11pm.
Malaga and Mallorca were the victims this week and fans at La Rosaleda expressed their disdain in comical fashion on Saturday night, turning up to the game en masse dressed in their pyjamas. In fact, the surreal scenes capped what has been a more than interesting week for the Andaluz club.
After such a tumultuous summer it was of obvious relief that the club got back to winning ways last weekend against Celta Vigo, although it was a far from convincing victory. One massive positive from the game had to be the unearthing of 16-year-old Fabrice Olinga. The Cameroonian midfielder, a product of Samuel Eto’o’s foundation, was relatively unknown until his 30 minute cameo, but boy did he make an impact. His 84th minute winner hit the headlines as he became the youngest goalscorer in La Liga history – beating Iker Muniain’s previous record.
The momentum gained from that late victory against Celta propelled the club into arguably their most important fixture in recent history, Malaga’s Champions League debut against Panathinaikos. The young Fabrice was rewarded with a place in the starting line-up, an indication of how much Manuel Pellegrini believes in his ability.
Malaga were impressive against the Greek side and ran out comfortable 2-0 winners but Pellegrini will acknowledge the tie is far from over. Greece is a hostile place to travel for any away team and it will be tough. However, a two goal cushion and the chance to grab an away goal make Malaga favourites to progress through to the Champions League proper.
Saturday’s game against Mallorca proved far tougher for Malaga – coming against a side that qualified for the Europa League last season and should be challengers for a European spot again this term. Unfortunately for the fans in attendance, both teams appeared to be suffering a continental hangover after their midweek games and the encounter proved to be a lacklustre affair.
Malaga controlled possession, however, it was Mallorca who broke the deadlock just after the break after good work from Nsue. Pellegrini soon rang the changes, and for the second week running Malaga’s hero was a young teenager brought on form the bench, this time the more experienced Juanmi. Eliseu was sent off late on which soured proceedings somewhat, but a 1-1 draw was a fair result with both teams still unbeaten and European fixtures to look forward to this week.
After the departures of key players and the continued financial worries it has been great relief to both Pellegrini and the fans to see the club make such a promising start to the season. Only a dramatic turn around will see them fail to make the group stages of the Champions League and the financial implications of guaranteeing another six games will be huge for the club.
Rumours of yet more departures continue of course, with Tottenham Hotspur heavily linked with the hugely-talented Isco, however, things a finally beginning to look up in Andalusia. It is understood hopes are high of bringing Javier Saviola back to Spain while the club have also been linked with Nikola Zigic, Alvaro Vazquez and Javi Guerra.
With five days of the transfer window still remaining, it is likely there will be more activity – both incoming and outgoing, however for now the situation seems to have stabilised. Panathinaikos will not go down without a fight but the La Liga side should have enough to ease through to the lucrative group stage, which could just save Malaga’s season.
Watch all the goals and extended highlights from Week 2 of La Liga – including Malaga 1-1 Mallorca HEREFollow @icentrocampista