Leeds United AFC have an excellent chance of progressing in European competition after holding Málaga CF to a scoreless draw in their UEFA Cup third round first-leg match.
Leeds show character
Leeds failed to secure their first win on Spanish soil for 35 years but with nine players injured - including Mark Viduka, Nicky Barmby and Robbie Fowler - showed considerable character and were the dominant side before the break.
Alan Smith, looking for his sixth goal in five European games, went closest before the interval, racing clear but dragging the ball too wide to squeeze a shot in at the near post. The striker then demonstrated his other side when he received a yellow card for dissent and was relieved to avoid another booking after fiercely contesting a lobbed ball over the top with goalkeeper Pedro Contreras.
Lee Bowyer, hustling and harrying all evening, was close to wriggling through on the half-hour but was hauled down. Ian Harte lined himself up for a trademark free-kick, but blasted the ball straight into the wall.
Soon after, the left-back, in search of his 35th Leeds goal, had another opportunity with the dead ball but his shot lacked the necessary menace. The Spanish team, in ninth place in the Primera División and having lost just once in eleven outings, came out for the second half determined to make amends for a lacklustre performance in the opening 45 minutes and were much improved, forcing the visitors on to the back foot for long periods through disciplined midfield passing.
Dely Valdes miss
Málaga, indeed, should have gone ahead when Kizito Musampa, playing in attack in the absence through injury of star Uruguayan international Darío Silva, poked a pass to his Panamanian strike partner Dely Valdes, who had time to pick his spot but failed to produce the gloss finish he needed.
Caution to the wind
Needing a goal, coach Joaquín Peiro chanced his arm and boosted his attack with substitutes Edgar and Ivan Leko. The move almost paid off when Marcelo Romero headed just wide from a free-kick.
The Leeds defence, however, remained resolute and when Sandro tried to thread through Dely Valdes, Jonathan Woodgate pulled off a vital challenge. The only time the central defender was beaten all evening came just afterwards when he was outjumped by Dely Valdes. But in gusty conditions, Leeds grafted to the last and deserved to go into the home leg with a slight advantage.