Malaga boosted their chances of
securing a place in next season's Champions League when they
came from a goal down to win 2-1 at Espanyol and draw level on
points with third-placed Valencia on Sunday.
The Qatar-owned club fell behind in the 24th minute to a
Philippe Coutinho strike before former Manchester United and
Real Madrid forward Ruud van Nistelrooy netted a 75th-minute
equaliser moments after coming off the bench.
Malaga snatched the winner two minutes later when Espanyol
goalkeeper Francisco Casilla saved Salomon Rondon's header only
for Martin Demichelis to smash the loose ball into the net.
"We are on a good run of form and losing a few matches
earlier in the season has helped inspire us to go for victory in
every game," Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini told a news
conference after his side's fifth win in six games.
"Every point is very valuable because the standings are very
congested," the Chilean added.
The victory lifted the Andalusians, one of Europe's biggest
spenders in recent seasons, into Spain's fourth Champions League
qualification place above Levante, who were beaten 2-0 at home
to an Osasuna side also in the running.
With nine games remaining, Valencia, who lost 3-1 at Getafe
on Saturday, hold on to third on 47 points thanks to a superior
goal difference over Malaga and Levante stay three points behind
and drop to fifth.
Leaders Real Madrid preserved their six-point advantage over
second-placed Barcelona with a 5-1 drubbing of Real Sociedad on
Saturday after Barca had shrugged off the dismissal of Thiago
Alcantara early in the second half to win 2-0 at Real Mallorca.
Real have 75 points and Barca, chasing a fourth successive
La Liga title, have 69, 22 ahead of Valencia and Malaga.
Osasuna are a point behind Levante in sixth, three ahead of
seventh-placed Espanyol, while Atletico Madrid are eighth, level
on 39 points with Getafe, after they conceded a penalty in added
time and lost 1-0 at a resurgent Real Zaragoza.
Zaragoza, whose season has been overshadowed by financial
problems and institutional strife, drew level with fellow
struggler's Sporting Gijon and Racing Santander on 25 points but
remained rooted to the bottom and six points from safety.
Gijon scored a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Athletic
Bilbao, while Santander also came from behind to earn a point in
a 1-1 stalemate at Real Betis.
"The only thing we can do is remain humble and maybe we have
a chance of saving ourselves from relegation," Zaragoza coach
Manolo Jimenez told a news conference.
"At the end of the game with the heat and the very dry pitch
it was a toss-up whether we won or lost and it was clear that
whoever scored would take the three points," he added.
Bilbao are 10th on 38 points and Marcelo Bielsa's side are
without a win in three matches since they knocked Premier League
side Manchester United out of the Europa League on March 15.
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