Málaga CF warmed up for Wednesday's UEFA Champions League play-off first leg against Panathinaikos FC with a 1-0 Liga win at RC Celta de Vigo in which young forward Fabrice Olinga created history.
Having witnessed the departure of key players such as Santi Cazorla, José Rondón and Ruud van Nistelrooy over the summer, coach Manuel Pellegrini offered Olinga the chance to express himself as a second-half substitute in Málaga's opening league encounter. The Cameroonian forward responded by netting the winner and, at 16 years and 98 days, became the youngest ever scorer in Spain's top flight.
"I am just thrilled for the team's win and to have played," Olinga said via Twitter after the Boquerones secured victory in the 84th minute of an evenly contested match against promoted Celta. "It's time to go back to Málaga and make sure I continue working hard."
Prior to the game, former Real Madrid CF and Villarreal CF coach Pellegrini, insisted that he had full confidence in Olinga's potential. "I don't think that his age poses a limit on his possibilities," he explained. "As well as having a big future, he can also be very important for us in the present."
Olinga arrived in Spain at RCD Mallorca from his native Cameroon, where he displayed his considerable talent while part of the Samuel Eto'o Private Foundation – a non-profit organisation set up by the former FC Barcelona striker that encourages education and the protection of children in West Africa.
A switch to Málaga followed and, after a surprise call-up to the first team, the division's fifth youngest debutant did not disappoint when entering the fray in the 59th minute. Announcing his arrival by striking a post, he then finished off Diego Buonanotte's centre to better a scoring record previously set by Athletic Club's Iker Muniain in 2009.
Next up for last season's fourth-placed Liga finishers is the midweek meeting with Panathinaikos – coached by Pellegrini's predecessor at Málaga, Jesualdo Ferreira. Pellegrini now believes that the difficulties his team encountered on Saturday will serve them well as they seek to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time in their history.
"We are now fully focused on the tie against Panathinaikos and, after coming through some very difficult moments on Saturday, we are stronger in spirit and mentality."
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