Villarreal made it 11 La Liga matches without loss, and six consecutive home shutouts (5 wins) with another victory by the minimum today in El Madrigal. The first half was almost entirely dominated by the Yellow Submarine, and the new-look strike partnership of Soldado and Baptistao almost immediately created problems for Malaga.
Soldado had already seen a hard, low shot parried by Kameni before he scored from the top of the box in the 18th minute, with Baptistao providing the assist after Bruno Soriano had won the ball back in the attacking half, Denis Suarez also involved.
The Submarine should have scored a second less than 2 minutes later, but Kameni came out to deny Jonathan dos Santos's chip. Malaga were content to play long balls out of the back, and their only real chance of the half came from one of these, Cop beating Musacchio to get to the ball but Areola was alert and stopped the shot. Other than that, Villarreal had some chances, but couldn't make things happen in front of goal.
HT Villarreal 1-0 Malaga
The first half had been one of the best Villarreal played all season, but the visitors performed much better in the second half, pressing the Submarine more in midfield. However, there wasn't much danger created from all that; their best chance of the half came from a hurried half-volley wide of the far post by Juanpi, practically his only contribution to the match.
Villarreal had several opportunities to score a second--Jonathan dos Santos blazed over with only Kameni to beat, Bakambu (who replaced Soldado) did have the ball in the net with a nice finish from the top of the box, but the referee called him for a foul first; and in injury time, Bakambu's shot was saved by Kameni when all he had to do was pull the ball back to Tomas Pina with the net gaping.
Ike Uche returned to El Madrigal but I believe touched the ball exactly once in about 10 minutes. There was a scary moment in the second minute of extra time when Areola came out to punch a free kick launched into the area and collided with Mateo Musacchio--fortunately, both were OK.
FT Villarreal 1-0 Malaga
48 points, and we remain at least 8 points clear of Sevilla in the race for fourth. Excellent play today from Soldado, Baptistao for the first half anyway; Victor Ruiz was tremendous in the back four, and Areola dominated his area. It was as dominant a 1-0 win as one could see, to be honest.