Villarreal defeated Malaga 1-0 in the Rosaleda in a scrappy match, one where the result probably just reflected the play overall.
The Yellow Submarine suffered another injury blow after only five minutes when Adrián López had to come off with a muscle problem. His replacement, Nahuel Leiva, could have given Villarreal the lead in the 12th minute but the referee ignored what looked like a strong penalty claim and waved play on.
Villarreal dominated the first half and was unlucky not to go in with a lead even after that, as Nahuel and Leo Baptistao combined time after time to put Malaga's defense under pressure with quick counterattacks. Goalkeeper Kameni made a couple of key saves to keep things level, while Malaga offered little going forward except from an occasional foray from Charles.
HT Malaga 0-0 Villarreal
Malaga began the second half with a bit more initiative, Charles's hard, low shot from outside the box two minutes in forcing Areola into a fine save. On the hour mark Baptistao shot over with only Kameni to beat and Nahuel cutting in. Marcelino looked to make substitutions shortly afterward, as is his want, but while Samu Castillejo received a huge ovation from the Malaga fans as he warmed up, he didn't make it onto the pitch--Bruno and Manu Trigueros did, with Tomas Pina and Jonathan dos Santos coming off.
A key play of the match came in the 70th minute, when Nahuel, chasing an outlet pass from Bruno, was sent flying by a Malaga defender. Denis Suarez took the resulting free kick and his low crossing ball was headed into his own net by defender Tissone.
The remaining twenty minutes were to be honest a bit of a horror film, as Villarreal struggled to get the ball to midfield, never mind into an attacking position, and Malaga, for all their possession around and in the box, just couldn't break through. The Yellow Submarine looked tired, having played three matches in six days, but the home side showed why they haven't been able to score in 450 minutes this season, with Areola standing tall in our goal when needed.
FT Malaga 0-1 Villarreal
If Adrián is unable to go on Saturday, our attacking options are even more limited, but rather than focus on that, let's enjoy today's win--this was the type of match Villarreal teams have too often struggled in and come away with nothing or at most a point.
Man of the match for me: Eric Bailly and Alphonse Areola (tie). Quiet match for Samu Garcia on his return "home", overall everyone did what they needed to do.