Málaga 2 - 0 Barcelona: match report
Málaga marvellous, Barcelona blunt. Goals on the counter-attack from Sandro, an ex-Barça player, and Jony secured a crucial victory in the context of the La Liga title race, while Neymar was sent off in the second half. The result sees Real Madrid extend their lead at the top of La Liga to three points, despite only mustering a draw in the derby against Atlético.
Málaga have lost five of their last six matches, and have not kept a clean sheet since October. Yet Los Boquerones gave a disciplined, assured display to turn La Rosaleda in to a cauldron of unscripted drama.
Barcelona controlled the early stages of the match and, on 16 minutes, Luis Suárez controlled a diagonal pass from Jordi Alba with a drop of his shoulder, before steaming towards Carlos Kameni's goal. The Cameroonian spread himself like an eagle coming in to land, and blocked the Uruguayan's effort at close range. Despite their territorial dominance, Barça failed to create any other clear chances. Michel, recently appointed on the Málaga bench, had moulded his defence in to a tight unit. Camacho and Recio patrolled the midfield; destructive without the ball, and efficient with it.
Barcelona grew frustrated. On 27 minutes, Neymar received a childish booking, for failing to move five yards away from the ball as Málaga waited to deliver a free-kick. It was an act of shoelace-tying petulance that would return to haunt him.
With 32 minutes gone, the home side drew first blood. Juankar launched a long, speculative ball forward from the edge of his own box. As Sandro bent his run, Mathieu stepped up in a clumsy attempt to play the ex-Barça youngster offside. He judged the situation horribly, allowing Sandro to charge 30 yards before sliding the ball in to the net at Ter Stegen's near post. Barcelona players complained vociferously that it should have been chalked off for offside, but to no avail. It was advantage Málaga at half time.
Luis Enrique shuffled his pack during the break. The calamitous Jérémy Mathieu was hauled off for Sergi Roberto, while Iniesta replaced the anonymous Denis Suárez.
The bold substitutions did not alter the pattern of the match. Barcelona lacked ideas, Málaga were disciplined and steely. Suárez faded after a busy start to the match, while Neymar and Messi dropped increasingly deep in order to collect the ball.
On the hour mark, the Brazilian span spectacularly away from his marker before crashing a shot against the outside of the post with a swing of his left foot. That would be his final contribution. Six minutes later, Neymar let the ball slip away with a loose touch. He was over-zealous in his attempt to recover, clattering Diego Llorente. Referee Gil Manzano raised his red card, and pointed to the tunnel. Neymar aimed a sarcastic round of applause towards the officials as he trudged off. The Brazilian could now be suspended for El Clásico.
Málaga continued to absorb, and break with gusto. They thought they had doubled their lead when energetic substitute Adalberto Peñaranda rounded Ter Stegen, and rolled the ball in to an empty net. He was harshly adjudged to be offside.
Minutes later, Barcelona also had legitimate reason to be frustrated at the officials. Sergi Roberto, who added energy on the wing following his introduction at half time, skipped in to the box and was agriculturally stopped by Luis Hernandez. The foul took place one foot within the box, but the referee signalled for a free kick. It was a moment that encapsulated a frustrating night for the Catalan club.
With full time approaching, and with Barça leaving themselves increasingly vulnerable, the second goal arrived. Fornals found himself in space following a rampaging counter-attack. With Ter Stegen committed, he rolled the ball in to the path of Jony to thunder home and deliver a blow to Barcelona's title hopes.
Málaga 2 - 0 Barcelona: second half as it happened
FT - That will be that! The Málaga players high-five, grin, and hug in congratulation. The Barça players trudge down the tunnel. Real Madrid retain their three point advantage at the top of La Liga.
Min 90+4 | Messi shifts the ball from his left foot to his right, and accelerates beyond Camacho. The Málaga midfielder fouls him, but the Argentine sends the free kick over.
Min 90+3 | A chipped ball from Messi finds it's way to Kameni.
Min 90 | There will be four added minutes.
Min 90 | GGOOOAAALLLLLLLL! Málaga double their lead at the death through Jony Rodríguez! A counter attack allowed the home side to surge through, and with Ter Stegen committed, the ball rolled back to Jony to slam home. Mascherano was helpless on the line.
Min 89 | Sergi Roberto springs the offside trap, but his shot is blocked by Kameni.
Min 88 | It's all Barcelona at the moment, in terms of possession. But they're doing little more than swinging crosses in from wide, as the Málaga defence remains compact.
Min 87 | Mascherano is booked for elbowing Charles.
Min 85 | Barça are leaving so much space in behind; a combination of having ten men, and pushing for an equaliser. Málaga have a 6v3 overload, but a poorly-weighted pass from Recio gifts possession back to Mascherano.
Min 84 | Málaga substitution, their final change sees Juankar replaced by Jony.
Min 83 | Whistles rain down from the terraces whenever Barça have possession. The home crowd are playing their part. Busquets arrives for a far-post header, and fouls Ricca as he stretches to make contact.
Min 82 | Juankar booked for repeatedly nibbling at Messi.
Min 81 | Peñaranda is played through on the half way line, but he comes out second-best in a foot race with Umtiti. The French defender recovers and emerges with possession.
Min 78 | Incoming referee controversy alert... Sergi Roberto is fouled inside the box by Hernandez. A free kick is given, and Messi fires a woeful effort in to the shins of the wall. Málaga bound upfield, and a crossfield ball gives Charles the chance to make a good first impression. Ter Stegen saves down to his right.
Min 77 | Málaga substitution. The tireless, dangerous Sandro is replaced by Charles.
Min 75 | Nearly, nearly, nearly, Luis Suárez. He bundles through a defender and bears down on goal. Kameni dives at his feet to gather.
Min 73 | Sandro fires a free kick in to the wall, from right on the corner of the box. Mascherano fouled Juankar, and it was close call between penalty and free-kick. One of those where the initial contact was outside the box.
Min 72 | Peñaranda is at the centre of everything in his first five minutes. He has the ball in the net, but it is chalked off for offside. It looked like he was level. Málaga are galloping forward on the counter attack at every opportunity.
Min 70 | Peñaranda is clearly fired up... he is already in the book. A bit of hangbags sends Umtiti tumbling to the turf, and the referee is quick to show a yellow. His bright peroxide hair means the officials will be able to keep an eye on him.
Min 69 | Messi looks towards goal with a piercing gaze, as he stands over a free kick. His effort goes straight in to the wall.
Min 67 | Málaga substitution: Peñaranda for Juanpi.
Min 66 | Neymar is off! Red card! He miscontrols the ball, and then clatters in to Llorente. A clear second booking. A sarcastic round of applause towards the officials as he leaves the pitch.
Min 64 | Almost Benny Hill-style defending from Kameni, who emerges from his goal, doesn't reach the ball, and then allows Suárez to get a cross in. Neymar sends a header over, with the goal gaping.
Min 63 | Good, patient play by Rosales, who gets forward well. He lays it off to Juanpi, who shifts the ball on to his left foot and shoots just over.
Min 62 | Suárez dummies an incoming cross, allowing the ball to roll through his legs. He fools all of his own teammates, and none of the opponents. Málaga collect the ball and emerge.
Min 61 | Barça make a final sub. Alcacer for Gomes.
Min 60 | Neymar crashes the outside of the post! He spun away from the defender with a delightful, Ronaldinho-esque spin, before shooting with his left foot. Kameni holds his hands aloft to suggest he had it covered... I'm not convinced.
Min 59 | Camacho has been superb in the midfield for Málaga. Destructive without the ball, and efficient with it.
Min 57 | Málaga squander a fantastic chance. They find themselves in a three versus two situation. Sandro squares it to Juanpi and, with the goal gaping, the diminutive Venezuelan shoots straight at Ter Stegen.
Min 56 | Sergi Roberto and Messi link up on the right, resulting in the latter sending a low shot wide of Kameni's post. The Argentine aims a wry smile and a thumbs up in the direction of his teammate.
Min 54 | Neymar stands over another free-kick. Messi was wiped out by a combination of Camacho, and Ricca's trailing foot. The Brazilian whips in a cross, which is emphatically cleared with a diving header. That was a very satisfying clearance to watch.
Min 53 | Sergi Roberto almost gives away possession in calamitous fashion on the edge of his own box. Juankar was nipping at his heels, but the half-time substitute just escaped.
Min 50 | Roberto scampers in from the right, plays it off to Suárez, who lays it to Messi... and Camacho chops him down 30 yards out. Messi sends the free-kick way, way over the cross bar, much to the elation of the home crowd.
Min 47 | Early surge by Málaga. Fornals finds himself at the byline. He attempts to square the ball to Sandro in the centre, but Umtiti slides in to make an important block, defecting the ball in to the side netting. The subsequent corner is woefully underhit, and cleared with ease.
Min 46 | Barça get the second half underway. Mascherano has moved inside to centre half, with Roberto slotting in at right back. Iniesta for Denis is a straight swap in the centre of the park.
The teams trot out on to the pitch. Two changes for Barcelona at the break: Iniesta for Denis Suárez, and Sergi Roberto for Mathieu.
Málaga 1 - 0 Barcelona: first half as it happened
HT - Málaga are roared off the pitch by their supporters. It has been an excellent, disciplined performance from Michel's team. He looks to have drilled them very well in defence. Sandro's well-taken goal on the break is the difference. Barcelona have enjoyed swathes of possession, but have only created one clear-cut chance, where Kameni denied Suárez from point-blank range.
Min 44 | Corner to Málaga. Umtiti gets a crucial toe to a through-ball, which prevents Sandro bursting through on goal. The corner is taken short, and the home side work it around the box before delivering a devilish cross that Ter Stegen manages to claim.
Min 40 | It really is frenetic. Now, Juanpi fires a shot in to the crowd from 25 yards out. Five minutes until the break. It hasn't gone according to the expected script so far.
Min 39 | Barcelona have the wind in their sails. Messi chips a delighful ball through to Alba, whose lofted cross is headed behind for a corner by Ricca at the far post. The game has opened up significantly in the last five minutes. The end-to-end nature doesn't suit Málaga, they'd be well-served by tightening up, calming down, and taking a lead in to half time.
Min 38 | Barça have a corner, and Kameni barks orders at his defence. Yet it is to little avail as Mathieu's flying touch results in a scramble of legs. The ball eventually bounces in the grateful hands of Kameni.
Min 37 | Ricca is booked. His crime - a clumsy challenge on Umtiti.
Min 36 | Barcelona settle back in to unthreatening possession after the goal. Neymar cuts in from the left and skips towards the Málaga box, but is halted uncompromisingly by Luis Hernandez. The sort of tackle that makes you go 'phwoar'.
Min 32 | GOOAALLLLL! Málaga take the lead through Sandro, the former Barça striker! Juankar plays a 50 yard pass forward from the left back position, and Mathieu's offside trap fails spectacularly. The Frenchman was the only man back for Barça. Sandro still had a lot of work to do, and runs 30 yards before sliding an assured finish in at Ter Stegen's near post. Umtiti booked for protesting, but the linesman's (lack of) offside call was spot on; Sandro was a) just inside his own half and b) generously played onside by Mathieu.
Min 30 | Penalty shout for Barça is waved away. André Gomes was played in, and looked ready to pull the trigger. Rosales arrived just in time, and barged Gomes off the ball. It looked like it was shoulder-to-shoulder. Some excellent last-ditch defending.
Min 29 | There are decibels aplenty inside La Rosaleda. The home fans are creating a fine din. Their side deserve it; they've been well-organised.
Min 27 | André Gomes fells Camacho, providing Málaga with a good opportunity to deliver a set piece. Neymar stands right in front of the ball, with Sandro waiting to cross the ball. The Brazilian received a booking for his troubles. The eventual free kick is overhit, and goes out for a goal kick.
Min 26 | A lot of possession for Barça, but not a great deal of incision. They have only mustered three shots so far, none of which had Kameni in a panic.
Min 23 | Half chance for the home side, following a mix up at the back. Ter Stegen gives the ball away, outside of his six-yard box. The ball fell to Juanpi, but he couldn't guide it in to the unguarded net from 30 yards. Up at the other end, the rather shaky-looking Hernandez is almost caught in possession by Suárez.
Min 22 | Wide from Messi. He arrows the ball towards the near post, but it sails over. Kameni had it covered.
Min 21 | Ricca fells Messi on the edge of the box. 25 yards out, Messi is placing the ball very deliberately. A wipe of his nose as he looks up and assesses the wall.
Min 19 | Suárez is finds himself in acres of space on the right, with the linesman's flag firmly down on this occasion. He flashes the ball across the face of goal, with Neymar arriving, but Kameni smothers it. Suárez has been at the centre of everything threatening for Barça. His movement is so intelligent.
Min 16 | Suárez goes through one-on-one, with just Kameni to beat... SAVED! A colossal stop from the Cameroonian. The chance came from a long, diagoncal ball from Jordi Alba, which Suárez controlled superbly with his shoulder. He poked it towards goal with his left foot, but Kameni, Barça's nemesis in the 0-0 draw at Camp Nou earlier this season, made himself big.
Min 15 | Sandro is going to have to work hard off the ball this evening. He has drifted deep and shown a few neat touches, which betray his La Masia education.
Min 13 | Barcelona mount their first meaningful attack, as Messi plays in Suárez, who then cut the ball back across the face of goal. The linesman had his flag up against the Uruguayan. He looked onside, though.
Min 12 | Málaga are sitting deep here, inviting Barcelona to take care the ball in harmless areas. In truth, there's not a great deal more they can do.
Min 9 | As expected, Barça have settled in to possession. They've had almost 70% of the ball so far. The visitors are probing, looking for openings, with the full backs hugging the touchline.
Min 6 | Neymar gets himself in a real tangle. He attempts a step over, falls over, and then fouls Recio. Alba then gets involved for absolutely no reason, goading Recio while he was on the deck. Alba enters the book for his petulance.
Min 4 | Messi is dropping deep to collect the ball, and dictate play. It provides a reminder of his staggering range of passing, when he does that. Other facets of his game are so unnaturally good, that it almost goes unnoticed.
Min 2 | Barça have set up with a 4-3-3 formation. Mascherano, Umtiti, Mathieu, and Alba make up the back four. Busquets, Denis, and André Gomes are in the middle. Naturally, it's MSN up front. The home side, meanwhile, are utilising a compact-looking 4-2-3-1. Sandro is up front on his own, with Juanpi, Juankar, and Fornals forming a three behind him. Camacho and Recio hold the midfield.
Min 1 | We're underway in Málaga! An early foul in the centre circle, committed by Mathieu. The Frenchman flattened Jaunpi with a rather clumsy body-check.
The pre-match pleasantries are taking place before an impressive display of blue and white from the Málaga faithful.
Málaga vs Barcelona: team news
Málaga XI: Kameni, Rosales, Llorente, Hernández., Ricca, Camacho, Recio, Fornals, Juankar, Juanpi, Sandro.
Barça XI: Ter Stegen, Alba, Umtiti, Mathieu, Mascherano, Busquets, Denis, André Gomes, Messi, Suárez, Neymar.
Coach: Luis Enrique
Málaga vs Barcelona: latest news
20:40 | With five precious minutes to go until kick off, a reminder that Barcelona can draw level on points with Real Madrid if they beat Málaga.
20:38 | Málaga have a 100% record against English clubs in European competition. Admittedly, it's only one tie, but they knocked out Leeds United in the 2002-03 UEFA Cup, with a 1-2 away victory at Elland Road in the second leg. Marcelo Romero, the recently-departed Málaga coach, lined up for the Spaniards on that occasion.
20:31 | Iniesta has dropped to the Barcelona bench, as one of Luis Enrique's changes post-Sevilla. Read the full low-down on tonight's teams.
20:30 | Málaga centre half Luis Hernandez spent the first half of the season at Leicester City. It didn't work out for the former-Sporting player under Ranieri, but watch out for his Rory Delap-esque long throw in.
20:27 | Without wishing to appear too scathing of Málaga's chances (I'm just reading the form book - don't shoot the messenger), they have conceded at least two goals in their last three home matches.
20:21 | This time four years ago, Málaga were preparing to be involved in the Champions League quarter-final, against Borussia Dortmund. Now, Los Boquerones languish in 15th place in La Liga's midriff. It has been a dramatic slide.
20:17 | Looking at recent history, it's hard to envisage that Málaga will keep the potent Barça attack at bay. The home side have not kept a clean sheet since a 4-0 victory over Leganes, way back in October. Barcelona, meanwhile, have notched up 11 goals in their last three matches. With Messi, Suárez, and Neymar back together, the floodgates could open.
20:10 | Carlos Kameni turned in a heroic performance between the sticks earlier this season, as Málaga secured an admirable 0-0 draw at Camp Nou. In a frank interview, the 'keeper spoke about the issues with racism he has encountered during his career in La Liga.
19:54 | For Málaga, it's just the three changes from that crucial 0-1 victory in Gijón. Juankar, Recio, and Juanpi come in; Mauri, Castro, and Santos are out.
19:50 | Four changes for Barça tonight. Mathieu, Denis, André Gomes, and Jordi Alba come in; Rakitic, Piqué (both suspended), Iniesta, and Roberto make way.
19:34 | One man in the Málaga squad will have something to prove this evening. Sandro Ramírez is the leading scorer at La Rosaleda with eight goals. The striker started his career at Camp Nou, spending two years with the first team before signing for his current club in 2016.
19:20 | Málaga have been a thorn in Barcelona's side in recent years. Luis Enrique discussed the hoodoo in his pre-match press conference: "dddly, they have done [well against Barca] with different coaches, Javi Garcia, Juande Ramos and now they have Michel in charge. I think it is to do with the individual talent they have, they can cause us problems in attack and defence and we have to put in a good performance to overcome that."
18:50 | Here's a reminder of the Málaga squad for this evening's encounter.
18:15 | That's full time at the Bernabéu, where the Spanish capital derby has ended Real Madrid 1-1 Atlético Madrid after a late Antoine Griezmann equaliser for Los Rojiblancos. That means a win for Barcelona would take them provisionally above Real, who have a game in hand still to play, on goal difference.
18:05 | Former Barcelona star Romario has been discussing fellow Brazilian Neymar, declaring that the Blaugrana ace is now ahead of Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the world's best player.
17:30 | Rakitic was involved in a spot of bother over the past week after TV cameras had captured him abusing Granada's Andreas Pereira last Sunday. Speaking after Barça's midweek win over Sevilla, however, the Croat sought to make amends.
16:35 | A reminder that Gerard Piqué and Ivan Rakitic are both suspended for Barça, while it was this week confirmed that Rafinha faces four months out after joining Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal on the injury list.
15:45 | The kind community managers at Barcelona have shared some pics of Los Azulgranas' trip to Málaga for this evening's week 31 match-up.
14:40 | Ahead of this evening's match at La Rosaleda, there's also a rather appetising football match in the Spanish capital - and we've got all the build-up and live, minute-by-minute coverage.
14:15 | As always, we have prepared an awfully useful guide on how and where to watch Málaga and Barcelona's LaLiga clash in Andalusia.
13:10 | Ahead of LaLiga week 31, the AS Oracle gazed deep into his trusty crystal ball - and saw visions of a surprise at La Rosaleda...
12:08 | Lionel Messi is generally a consistent performer but he needs help as much as the next man...although few are aiming to continually be the world's best.
11:18 | Someone who may choose some shut-eye instead of watching the Madrid derby is Barça manager Luis Enrique. Sensible chap.
10:55 | Kick off is a while off in La Rosaleda but interest in other games around LaLiga today will have managers, players and fans of both these sides taking note. Málaga's current eight point advantage over the best-placed relegation side, Sporting, should mean they're safe so their aim is to finish as high up the mid-table as possible. Barça though, will have eyes on the Santiago Bernabéu where first and third meet.
Málaga vs Barcelona: match preview
It's probably an overstatement calling Málaga, Barcelona's bogey team but if one thing is clear from recent games, a match between both sides is far from a foregone conclusion. Málaga secured a 0-0 draw earlier in the 16/17 season game at Camp Nou with an inspired performance from Cameroonian stopper Carlos Kameni and memories of the 2015 game also at Camp Nou still live fresh in the mind of the azulgrana fraternity when a Juanmi goal in the seventh minute was enough for a shock away win at the Catalan fortress.
New coach Michel received a major boost on Wednesday as his side secured a huge win in terms of the both, the three points that headed to the south coast but more importantly the psychological advantage of ensuring fellow strugglers Sporting remained in the drop zone. With just eight games remaining in the campaign, the Costa del Sol outfit now hold an eight point advantage of the relegation zone and barring extreme circumstances should be in the Spanish top flight for the 17/18 campaign.
The lively Keko Gontán will be a major loss for Málaga as the former Eibar winger was shown his fifth yellow card of the season at El Molinon and has been given a one-match ban due to an accumulation of cards and he'll miss the visit of Barça. Sandro, Mikel, Ricca, Ontiveros, Rosales and Juanpi will all need to be on their best behaviour with all on an accumulated four yellow cards.
In his pre-match press conference Michel claimed that the game against the Catalan giants comes at a perfect time for his team: “Following the victory against Sporting we’re doing well. The players have shown that they can do it, and from now on we’ll play with much less pressure”. The coach also refused to cite fatigue as a possible excuse: “There’s nothing more recuperating and regenerating than victory. When you win, there is less fatigue. We have players at our disposal, we already made a few changes the other day. I’m certain that Wednesday’s win will help us to be less tired, although we’ll see that we’ll run the same amount as we did against Sporting”.
There is no getting away from the fact that the month of April is traditionally make or break for most teams as we reach the "business end" of the domestic campaign whilst the Champions League reaches a point where a trip to Cardiff is just four games away.
Barcelona's visit to the south coast to face Malaga has all the hallmarks of the dreaded "banana skin fixture". Despite the convincing win midweek over a Sevilla side who are undergoing a mini-crisis, Barcelona are not at their best this season and despite these erratic performances, that the team are in the quarter final of the Champions League and pushing Real Madrid all the way in what essentially is a two horse race for the league title speaks volumes about the individual talent at the disposal of the Asturian coach .
Luis Enrique analysed the Costa del Sol based outfit in his pre-match press conference claiming: “They're a side who have changed their coach and that is significant. He hasn't had very long to work with the squad he's got but with the result they got mid-week in Gijón brought them three much-needed points. Málaga have always given us problems - they have quality and it's going to be a good test for us to see what possibilities we have in la Liga”.
Málaga v Barça: betting odds
The Catalan side are favourites to make the return trip to Barcelona with three points firmly tucked in their hand luggage, but the big money comes from Michel's side making a dramatic comeback over 90 minutes.
Barcelona ahead at the break and a Malaga win when match official Gil Manzano sounds the final whistle pays out at a handsome 51/1.