Malaga sail through to the last 16 but Pellegrini left frustrated by draw

Manuel Pellegrini is proud of his players for their Champions League qualification, but showed frustration at not being able to hold on to their lead against Anderlecht.
Manuel Pellegrini is proud of his players for their Champions League qualification, but showed frustration at not being able to hold on to their lead against Anderlecht.

Manuel Pellegrini says he is disappointed after his Malaga side conceded a late goal against Anderlecht on Tuesday which denied the club another Champions League win, and he claims his side deserved to hold on to victory.

Dieumerci Mbokani Bezua’s goal with just two minutes left of normal time stole a point for the Belgian side after Duda had twice fired the La Liga side into the lead at La Rosaleda.

The draw did not alter things in Group C for Malaga who were already through to the round of 16 before kick-off, but despite fighting back to level the game Anderlecht could not do enough to avoid finishing bottom of the group and exiting European football for the season.

“Unfortunately our rival equalised in the last two minutes, which also occurred in the Zenit match,” said the frustrated Malaga manager.

“We had a great number of goal chances and showed an excellent attacking display and a great performance by Kameni.

“It was disappointing when they scored the equaliser, but all in all, we played very good football tonight.

“I’m pleased with the individual performance on the attack however I think we needed to be stronger at the back.

“It was a fair draw, although we can’t help feeling disappointed with the last-minute goal.”

Things have not been easy for the Spanish side, who have suffered financially in recent times, so Pellegrini was more than happy with his team’s on-pitch success that saw them ease through to the next round of the world’s biggest club competition, proving stronger than even Italian giants AC Milan.

“We had the right attitude and conviction in every match in the group stage, regardless of the rival,” said Pellegrini.

“Since the very first match against Zenit, we showed our determination to qualify. We proved ourselves again in Belgium, scoring nine points out of nine.

“We finished with three draws, but I think we always had the advantage and determination to win.”

As well as being frustrated as his team’s inability to hold onto the lead in Tuesday’s match with Anderlecht, Pellegrini also had some other bad news when Jeremy Toulalan had to be substituted in the 16th minute through injury.

“Toulalan suffered a muscular injury,” Pellegrini said about his important midfield player.

Looking ahead to the next round of the prestigious European competition, the Malaga boss insists it is important to focus on his own team’s attitude and performance, rather than worrying about which opponent they will have to overcome.

“I really don’t think it matters who we’re up against in the next round. Whoever it is, it’ll be tough. We’re talking about the 16 best teams in Europe.

“The most important thing is that we maintain a high performance level in February, with the determination and motivation to reach the next round.”

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