As two of Spain’s top four squared up in Andalusia there were no goals to enjoy despite an array of attacking talent on display for Malaga and Atletico Madrid.
With the likes of Isco, Joaquin and Roque Santa Cruz on the hunt for goals for the home side and Atletico Mpartnering Falcao and Diego Costa in attack, with Juanfran supplying the crosses from the right, few would have predicted a goalless stalemate.
This was another intriguing fixture as La Liga’s top four squared up this weekend, following Saturday’s Clasico between third placed Real Madrid and leaders Barcelona, but the match was not as eventful as Real’s controversial 2-1 win at the Bernabeu.
Goalkeepers Willy Caballero – for the hosts – and Thibaut Courtois - for the visitors - will both be pleased with tidy performances, but in truth neither had a great deal of work to do.
Atletico were far the better side in the first half as their midfield controlled the game despite the absence of preferred central pairing Gabi and Tiago through suspension and injury respectively. Arda Turan, Koke and Cristian Rodriguez did a decent enough job for Diego Simeone’s side through the middle but the cutting edge was missing and Atletico’s inconsistence away from home showed again.
Brazilian striker Costa made a nuisance of himself with a series of petty fouls on Malaga’s Argentine centre half Martin Demichelis and eventually the Atletico man went into the book after the break for a dive, when fairly challenged by Demichelis on the edge of the box.
Although Atletico had the better of Malaga in midfield – with Isco looking unusually off colour and substituted in the second half – it was the home side who had the two clearest cut chances as Lucas Piazon headed just wide in the tenth minute and Weligton missed the target by inches with a 78th minute header of his own.
In fact it was the first time Malaga have failed to score at the Rosaleda in the league in several months - having netted in each of their last 17 league matches at home.
A point apiece for the two sides keeps their seasons on track as both aim to cement Champions League finishes. But the result means Atletico are now just two points ahead of city rivals Real, whilst Malaga are only a point ahead of fifth placed Valencia in the table, so there is plenty left to play for.
Malaga are still in this season’s Champions League and they host Porto on March 13th, going into the second leg of their last 16 tie having lost 1-0 in Portugal in the first leg.
Atletico’s away form has been their main weakness in La Liga this year, they started well enough, with three wins in their opening four away matches, but they have now only won once in their last seven away games.
A draw was fair result overall and the final score was a repeat of the scoreline from the same fixture last season in January 2012 – a game which incidentally was Simeone’s first in charge of Atletico. He will hope they can get back to scoring ways when they return to action next weekend at home to Real Sociedad.