Pellegrini Ponders Points Passed Up

This was a game that did little to help either team’s aspirations of securing a European berth for next season.  Malaga missed out on a great opportunity to put daylight between themselves and the chasing pack for the much coveted fourth spot, whilst Osasuna let the chance to draw level with Levante slip through their fingers as they rued missed chances and the failure to capitalise on some first half dominance which saw them start the brighter of the two sides.

Osasuna started the brighter of the two in the first half, keeping the affluent Andalusians on the back foot from the first whistle.  Carlos Kameni, who continues to deputise in goal for Caballero, did well to keep the home side at bay as he was more than a match for “Los Rojillos” front line, saving well from the wingers Punal and Timor as well as eventual goal scorer, Nino.  Osasuna talisman Nekounam also had a chance to break the deadlock but saw his effort sail over the bar.

The visitors had to wait until the 34th minute for a clear site of goal, but Cazorla’s strike was well blocked by Osasuna’s stalwart, Damia Abella.  Moments later, Malaga full back Nacho Monreal thought he had broken the deadlock, but was denied by the woodwork and it began to feel like despite all their riches, the fortunes of “Los Boquerones” showed little chance of changing.

The second half began in similar vein to that of the first, as the hosts sought to seize the initiative and take the game to Malaga.  Carlos Kameni was called upon again to tip Cajudo’s effort around the post but could do little to keep out Nino’s header from close range as the home side took a well deserved lead.

Pellegrini responded on the hour mark with the introduction of his influential number 9, Ruud Van Nistelrooy.  This proved to be the catalyst that Malaga were looking for as the Dutchman sought to spearhead the attack and provide some much needed firepower to the front line.  Less than ten minutes later, it was all square.  After a period of sustained pressure, which saw Van Nistelrooy head wide, tricky midfielder Joaquin managed to evade the Osasuna defenders to find Santiago Cazorla who fired home from outside the area to leave the ball nestled in the bottom right hand corner of Andres net as Malaga looked to take the game by the scruff of the neck and leave the Basque country with all 3 points.

That said, Osasuna were not to be outdone as defender Marc Bertran had the chance to restore the lead for the hosts, however he was unable to keep his composure and fired his shot high and wide.  Champions League chasing Malaga’s hearts were in their mouths as the encounter reached its closing stages, as Nacho Camacho managed to find the frame of the goal with a well placed header as hopes of emerging victorious began to slip away for the Andalusians.  Cazorla went close again in the dying moments, but it finished all square at the Estadio Reyno de Navarra.

Next up for Malaga is a tough home encounter with Valencia.  The men from the Mestalla currently occupy 3rd spot in La Liga and will not be looking to concede any ground to their rivals as the season reaches a dramatic finale.  Manuel Pellegrini’s team will be looking to get back to winning ways before back to back away days at the Nou Camp and to the capital to take on Europa League semi-finalists, Athletico Madrid.

Los Rojillos will take on a relegation threatened Villarreal on Saturday as they look to stay hot on the heels of this season’s surprise package, Levante.

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