Eurosport - Sun, 16 May 20:09:00 2010
Real Madrid's league campaign ended in disappointment as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Malaga on the final day of the season.
While Barcelona's impressive victory over Real Valladolid effectively dashed any hopes Real had of pipping their eternal rivals to the title, the manner in which Real floundered against an impressive Malaga side, for whom the result saved the club from relegation, symbolises the disillusionment of many fans who's hopes had been raised by the club's unprecedented levels of spending last summer.
They end the season second, three points behind the Catalans, while Malaga finished 17th, one place clear of the drop zone.
Real were up against it as early as the 10th minute after they fell behind to Duda's strike, and though Rafael van der Vaart pulled his side level at the start of the second half, they were unable to find a second. Their disappointment at the final whistle was in sharp contrast to the scenes of jubilation among the Malaga fans and players.
If most of the attention in the media and the press was centred upon on the battle for the league title, then Malaga showed in the opening five minutes they were firmly focussed on their fight to avoid relegation, beginning with a high tempo pressing game that seemed to catch their more illustrious opponents by surprise.
Felipe Caicedo smashed a shot into the side-netting when ideally placed to score after Real keeper Iker Casillas had spilt Duda's shot straight into the Ecuadorian's path after just five minutes, while on 10 minutes Duda struck the opening goal.
Two misjudgements in midfield allowed an innocuous infield ball to reach Duda, and the Portuguese midfielder played a fine exchange with Caicedo, before tucking the ball neatly past the onrushing Casillas.
While Real managed to regroup and sort out their defensive difficulties, their glittering array of attacking talent was being stifled by Malaga's impressive work rate when not in possession.
On the one occasion Gonzalo Higuain did find himself in space he fired tamely wide from the edge of the area, while Cristiano Ronaldo's header and Van der Vaart's spectacular overhead, both of which missed the target, were in truth no more than half-chances.
Caicedo, on the other hand, passed up another far more inviting opportunity to double Malaga's advantage, sidefooting wide following Apono's mazy run.
It wasn't until five minutes before the break that the small travelling contingent of Real fans were out of their seats, as Van der Vaart finally tested Gustavo Munua with a well-struck free-kick that the Uruguayan keeper did well to keep out.
Real emerged a much improved, more determined side after the break, but found Munua in fine form, as he pulled off the save of the match to keep out Marcelo's goalbound volley straight from the restart.
There was, however, nothing Munua could do to keep out Van der Vaart's effort moments later. Though the ball appeared to be getting away from him in a crowded penalty area, he tussled doggedly to keep possession, before turning on a sixpence and firing low into the bottom corner.
The stage seemed set for Real Madrid to lay siege to the Malaga goal, but too many of their stars simply weren't performing. The introduction of Guti on the hour mark injected some creativity into Real's play, though Munua twice produced fine saves to keep out close range efforts from Esteban Granero and substitute Karim Benzema.
There was a brief moment of controversy in injury time as Duda was shown a straight red after a tussle with Xabi Alonso, in which he seemed to have done little wrong, though the anger on the part of the Malaga fans soon turned back to joy as the final whistle blew signalling their success in a relegation fight that saw Tenerife, Real Valladolid and Xerez drop to the Segunda Division.
For Real, another season of disappointment concludes, giving way to another inevitable summer of upheaval. Manuel Pellegrini was quick to disappear down the tunnel at the final whistle, and with rumours of the likes of Jose Mourinho taking over in the coming weeks, it would be a major surprise if yet another change of manager were not on the agenda.