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Santa Cruz sends Málaga into last eight

Published: Wednesday 13 March 2013, 22.50CET
Málaga CF 2-0 FC Porto (agg: 2-1)
A 77th-minute header from substitute Roque Santa Cruz took the debutants into the last eight after Isco had wiped out Porto's first-leg advantage.
by Graham Hunter
from La Rosaleda

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Published: Wednesday 13 March 2013, 22.50CET

Santa Cruz sends Málaga into last eight

Málaga CF 2-0 FC Porto (agg: 2-1)
A 77th-minute header from substitute Roque Santa Cruz took the debutants into the last eight after Isco had wiped out Porto's first-leg advantage.

The Málaga CF fairy tale in their debut UEFA Champions League season continues as goals from Isco and substitute Roque Santa Cruz saw off ten-man FC Porto and secured a place in the quarter-finals.

The Spanish side had never before had to overturn a first-leg deficit in UEFA competition but drew level on aggregate thanks to a sublime dipping volley from Isco two minutes before half-time. Porto's task was made even harder when Steven Defour collected a second yellow card early in the second period, and the ten men were made to pay when Santa Cruz nodded in 13 minutes from time, moments after coming on.

The frantic pace did not detract anything from the tense contest but as the first half unfolded it did prevent the game's three main playmakers – João Moutinho, Júlio Baptista and Isco – from introducing craft ahead of perpetual motion. By the break Isco was not among the top ten players for distance covered, such had the pinball nature of the football bypassed his refined skills. However, the instant that the home team introduced just a little more thought into their play the balance of the match swung firmly their way.

Until the 35th minute it had been a stop-start affair, a series of fouls halting the flow of the fixture. Neither side had properly threatened but when a Málaga corner dropped to Antunes, his left-foot shot was bound for the top corner until goalkeeper Helton made a fine save.

The surge of adrenaline seemed to give Málaga purpose and conviction and Javier Saviola swiftly had an effort ruled out for a foul on Helton – yet moments later the goal did come. Manuel Iturra fed a simple pass to Isco's feet and, with no defenders closing him down, he whipped a dipping shot up and over Helton to the delirious acclaim of La Rosaleda.

The interval offered Porto the chance to regroup, but any adjustments Vítor Pereira made were lost within four minutes when Defour tripped Joaquín to collect his second booking. As the ten men worked double time, Nicolás Otamendi's error from an Isco cross gave Saviola the glimpse of an opening that went begging.

Isco himself drove an attempt into the side netting, though Porto were not without a threat of their own, a James Rodríguez free-kick poked just over by Jackson Martínez a timely reminder to Manuel Pellegrini's men. Warning heeded, the decisive breakthrough arrived shortly afterwards. Santa Cruz, who had replaced Baptista only three minutes before, rose above Otamendi to meet Isco's right-wing corner and place a downward header beyond Helton.

The Portuguese champions pressed and probed, Helton charging forward for a last-gasp free-kick, but Málaga crucially held out for their ninth clean sheet in 12 European home games as the final whistle confirmed Spain's third representative in Friday's last-eight draw.

Last updated: 25/09/14 4.00CET

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