A brilliant debut in the group stages of the Champions League for Spanish side Malaga saw them outclass visitors Zenit St. Petersburg to secure a solid 3-0 win at the Estadio La Rosaleda.
Indeed the home side were in control from the early stages as Spaniard Isco notched in the third minute and his Argentine colleague Javier Saviola made it 2-0 in the 13th. Isco later wrapped things up 15 minutes from time with a great drive from the edge of the box as he combined well with Joaquin.
It was a torrid first half for the Russian visitors, who had new signing Hulk up front, but could not feed him sufficiently to do any significant damage – although he did smash the ball against the crossbar in the fifth minute.
Hulk’s chance was against the run of play as Saviola had several chances in the first half and Malaga could have perhaps made it an embarrassing scoreline before half-time.
Zenit boss Luciano Spalletti was forced to withdraw Aleksandar Luković early on his Champions League debut, bringing on Vladimir Bystrov to try and shift the balance of what was one-sided first half.
The home slowed the pace after the break and Malaga showed some moments of real class to lift the crowd after a period of turmoil for the club off the field over the summer.
Saviola was brilliant in the first half but went off after an hour to give Roque Santa Cruz a chance to enter the action.
Joaquin deserved a goal but it was not to be as he squeezed through in the 83rd minute in search of a fourth but just failed to get the ball past Vyacheslav Malafeev, who gathered the ball into his arms at a second attempt.
Hulk was the man making the front running for the visitors but he was lucky to escape punishment as he kicked out at Martin Demichelis. Eventually the Brazilian got yellow carded for a dive in the late stages, as his night concluded in frustration.
As the final whistle went the Malaga fans saluted Manuel Pellegrini’s victorious team and it will be a long journey home for Zenit who did not turn up when it counted.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Isco – Malaga: The Spanish striker scored two goals and created havoc in the Zenit defence, to help his team to an excellent win.
Malaga: Caballero 7, Gámez 7, Weligton 7, Demichelis 8, Monreal 7, Camacho 7, Joaquín 8, Eliseu 7, Isco 9, Portillo 7, Saviola 7. SUBS: Iturra 6, Duda 6, Santa Cruz 6.
Zenit: Malafeev 6, Anyukov 6, Bruno Alves 5, Lombaerts 6, Luković 4, Shirokov 7, Zyryanov 6, Fayzulin 6, Denisov 6, Kerzhakov 6, Hulk 7. SUBS: Lumb 6, Bystrov 6, Djordjević 6.