Málaga CF continued their remarkable start to life in the UEFA Champions League with a 1-0 victory against seven-time European champions AC Milan.
Joaquín's penalty miss looked like it could be costly but, as on Saturday against Real Valladolid CF, the Spanish international bounced back from his spot-kick setback with a second-half winner. Manuel Pellegrini's team have now won all three of their Group C games without conceding a goal and are five points clear at the summit.
However, it was not all plain sailing. Perhaps it was the enormity of a night many considered the most historic in the Andalusian club's history, perhaps it was the slick pitch and heavy rain which poured down from just after kick-off, but Málaga began nervously. The style of play lauded by Joaquín in the build-up became forced and lacking in precision.
Milan not only pushed three men forward in the initial stages yet offered a further threat with full-back Mattia De Sciglio overlapping down the right. It was a ploy to look for an early goal and, combined with energetic pressing, made life difficult for the hosts.
It all meant that 30 minutes passed before there was a proper opportunity, Stephan El Shaarawy spurning the chance after deceiving Jesús Gámez. Then, finally, Málaga sparked into life. Twice Joaquín roamed down the right and cut back for Isco to shoot. The first attempt, in the 34th minute, was too high, but the second, not long afterwards, skidded towards the bottom corner of Marco Amelia's net. The goalkeeper needed to be at full stretch to tip it wide.
On the stroke of half-time Málaga's pressure should have resulted in the lead. A clever Francisco Portillo back-heel had Gámez surging into the box, only for Kévin Constant to barge him over. Entrusted with spot-kick duty despite his weekend miss against Valladolid, Joaquín was this time denied by the bar.
Málaga kept their tails up throughout the second period. Isco sent Javier Saviola into the area and only a tremendously timed, if risky, intervention from Daniele Bonera denied him a goal. When the opener did arrive in the 64th minute, it was worth the wait. Joaquín sprinted forward, released to Manuel Iturra, received the ball back and finished via Amelia's right-hand post.
Eliseu's effort might have added to the scoreline had it been marginally lower, though the key late action came at the other end. Willy saved superbly from El Shaarawy's fierce shot with five minutes left and Philippe Mexès blazed wide from close range.
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