Málaga CF ensured Leeds United AFC's season went from bad to worse tonight when they defeated the English side 2-1 at Elland Road to progress to the last 16 of the UEFA Cup.
Dely Valdes double
In a fiercely-contested encounter that saw seven yellow cards, Panamanian striker Dely Valdes scored in both halves to consign Leeds to their ninth defeat in ten matches. The tone of the evening was set from the outset when a challenge on Michael Bridges, in only his second game in two years, forced him to the sidelines. He was then carried of on a stretcher to the dressing room with an Achilles tendon injury that will most likely keep him on the sidelines for the rest of the season.
The home team's heads dropped even further when Dely Valdes struck the opener on 13 minutes, the striker poking a low shot into the near corner after a pinpoint ball from Kizito Musampa, who had done well to drive to the by-line to cross. Leeds, though, worked hard to get back into the tie, and they did so on 22 minutes. Gary Kelly sneaked into a good position and crossed to Robbie Fowler, who had come on for Bridges. The former Liverpool FC player's first touch took the ball back across the face of goal and Eirik Bakke stormed in with a volley at the far post to billow the net with his first goal since February.
Leeds started the second half brightly but Málaga sensed it was to be their night, kept their defence tight and strived to keep control of the midfield - where the challenges went in thick and fast. The English team's best chance to grab the vital second goal came on 47 minutes when Bowyer went agonisingly close with a diving header after an Alan Smith cross.
But from there on in it was all Málaga with Roteta and Musampa forcing fine saves from goalkeeper Paul Robinson. Dely Valdes hit the hammer blow on 80 minutes, forcing his way past Woodgate to hit a left-foot shot into the far corner.
Leeds coach Terry Venables admitted that he felt let down by his side's performance after the break. "We did a lot to get back into it and by half time we had done well after showing good spirit but we then sat back and went flat and they played keep ball.
Our results are simply not good enough at the moment." Venables also admitted that the injury to Bridges had overshadowed the result. "Whatever had happened tonight would have been dampened by Michael's injury," he said. "I feel broken-hearted for the kid."