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Malaga stun Porto to make Champions League quarters

While Arsenal narrowly missed out on Champions league progression, the underdogs from Spain, who faced a 1-0 deficit from the first leg, made it through, and in style.

Weligton (R) of Malaga CF celebrates at the end of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg match between Malaga CF and FC Porto at La Rosaleda Stadium on March 13, 2013 in Malaga, Spain.

Weligton (R) of Malaga CF celebrates at the end of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg match between Malaga CF and FC Porto at La Rosaleda Stadium on March 13, 2013 in Malaga, Spain.

Malaga, apart from the first 15 minutes of the game dominated proceedings throughout. With a floating set of tactics that saw Isco on the left, Joaquin on the right, Saviola through the centre and Baptista just behind him, was altered with great fluidity by the front four. Although in the second lease of their careers, Joaquin and Baptista showed that they are still Champions league material.

The match was a tempestuous affair to say the least, with 9 yellow cards in all, most of them to Porto; it looked more like a hacking war at some points. Martinez should have been sent off early for a boot to the face of Ittura. Defour though played like a man frustrated and should have earned five yellows instead of the two, which sent him off.  In the first half after an initial period of dominance Moutinho looked to be the only player who could make things happen for Porto. While Malaga had good possession they were making horrible decisions in the final third, which threatened to cost them the tie.

What they needed was a goal before half-time to soothe the nerves and they got exactly that in the form of an Isco stunner. In the 43rd minute, he picked the ball outside the box just to the left of the goal and unleashed an unstoppable dipping shop, which found its way above Helton’s fingers and under the crossbar into the top corner. But Malaga should have been in the lead earlier, while Helton came out to catch a Jesus Gamez cross Baptista was pushed into the ground by Danilo, due to which Helton after catching the ball lost balance and the ball and Saviola scored. But the goal was disallowed. Now either the goal should have stood or a penalty should have given to Malaga for the push. Failing both, Baptista should have been booked for impeding play and diving but nothing was done. Makes you wonder why goal line officials are employed in the first place. .

Moutinho went off injured at half-time and along with him Porto lost their creativity. The highly-rated Jackson Martinez mostly cut a lonely figure and spurned two chances. One by not getting a good connection on a beautiful Danilo free-kick and the second by unnecessarily being offside. Isco meanwhile was showed why he was the best young player in the world. He seemed to have a free role in the second half (partly due to Defour’s red) and was orchestrating moves. He controlled a cross beautifully on his chest and volleyed just over. He began a give and go with Saviola and crashed his final shot into the side netting. The signs for another goal were imminent. Pellegrini took off his ageing front line with Piazon, Santa Cruz and Camacho coming of for Baptista, Saviola and Joaquin. And it worked Santa Cruz crashed in a perfect header off a corner with his first touch and the stadium went delirious, Malaga were on their way now.

All through the second half Malaga had employed tactics similar to those of Barca’s against Milan with a high pressing and patient possession game although they did not have their pace going forward. But they made up for it will power and tenacity.

In the end it ended 2-0 to Malaga and was a testament to their self belief and team effort. They were the third Spanish team to get though to the 8 quarterfinal places. Though not as good as their fellow clubs, Malaga certainly showed that if kept from financial implosion they can be a club that can over time develop and maybe challenge the might of Barcelona and Real Madrid. However, the fans will enjoy the moment and so will the players.

 Isco of Malaga CF celebrates scoring his sides opening goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg match between Malaga CF and FC Porto at La Rosaleda Stadium on March 13, 2013 in Malaga, Spain.

Isco of Malaga CF celebrates scoring his sides opening goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg match against FC Porto at La Rosaleda Stadium on March 13, 2013 in Malaga, Spain.

Men of the match: Isco and Toulalan

It was impossible to pick between them: one, the kid who looks certain to have a great future and the other, an experienced hand in the middle of the park. Isco made things happen upfront with his great off the ball runs and dribbling skills. He also ran back, put in a defensive shift and got a couple of interceptions and capped off a great game with a stunner. Toulalan meanwhile controlled the midfield and backline, broke up play constantly and was the perfect midfielder. He never left his centre-backs exposed, made tackles and he even put in a couple of great through balls.

Barring injuries, unforeseen events and  a favourable draw, Malaga could be genuine dark horses in this seasons Champions League.

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