Champions League debutants Malaga enjoyed another great night at La Rosaleda with a goal from Joaquin giving them a 1-0 victory over visitors AC Milan.
A bright first-half saw Milan let off the hook when Joaquin missed a penalty on the stroke of half-time. After being a thorn in Milan’s side throughout the opening 45, it was surprising to see the Malaga danger man blast the spot-kick over the bar.
Milan will have felt justice was done, however, as the referee’s awarding of the penalty for a foul by Kevin Constant on Jesus Gamez was more than a little harsh. Constant and Philippe Mexes joined Riccardo Montolivo in the book as a result of the referee’s decision.
Malaga had the best of the play in the opening period with Isco, Javier Saviola, and especially Joaquin heavily involved throughout. Milan’s Constant and Francesco Acerbi were given a particularly torrid time down the Malaga right.
A subdued second-half was brought to life with a piece of combined brilliance from Manuel Iturra and Joaquin. The lively Joaquin finished with a cool side-footed effort after a lovely chipped pass from the Chilean Iturra.
Iturra turned out to be the man to add some much needed spice to a dull second-half as he harried and pressured the opposition before providing a killer ball for the goal. A few minutes after the opening strike he showed a different side of his game as a two-footed lunge on Urby Emanuelson was seen to merit only receive a yellow card from the referee.
Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri replaced the hapless Constant with Alexandre Pato soon after Malaga’s goal, but the Brazilian was unable to have any influence on proceedings as the Spanish side relentlessly pressed forward looking for a second.
La Liga old boy Bojan Krkic was also brought on to boos from the locals as Milan looked to salvage something from the game in the final 15 minutes. The ex-Barcelona frontman was rumoured to have turned down a move to Malaga in the summer before joining Milan. Unfortunately for Milan, his introduction had little impact on the game.
Milan had two quick chances to equalise in quick succession as the match entered the final 10 minutes. First Willy saved excellently from Stephan El Shaarawy and then Mexes shot agonisingly wide from the resulting corner. A draw would have been more than Milan deserved, but they had shown flashes of danger on the counter-attack throughout a game in which they struggled to impose themselves consistently on their hosts.
The result leaves Manuel Pellegrini's Malaga side within touching distance of the knock-out stages on nine points from their opening three games, with second placed Milan five points adrift.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Joaquin - Malaga: Another solid display from the Spanish forward, teasing the Milan defence, creating plenty of chances and scoring the solitary goal to secure a crucial victory.
MALAGA: Willy 7, Gamez 7, Weligton 7, Demichelis 7, Camacho 7, Joaquín 8, Iturra 8, Eliseu 7, Isco 8, Portillo 7, Saviola 7. Subs: Onyewu 6, Duda 7, Santa Cruz 6.
AC MILAN: Amelia 7, De Sciglio 6, Mexes 6, Acerbi 6, Bonera 6, Montolivo 5, Constant 5, Ambrosini 5, Emanuelson 6, Pazzini 6, El Shaarawy 7. Subs: Pato 5, Krkic 5.