Malaga sent Anderlecht tumbling out of European competition after a 2-2 draw at La Rosaleda consigned the Belgian side to last place in Champions League Group C.
The Spanish team - who finished unbeaten in six games - had already won the group thanks to their superior record over second placed AC Milan. The Italians finished with a 1-0 home defeat to Zenit St Petersburg, meaning Anderlecht were denied third place and a spot in the Europa League.
This entertaining game between Champions League newcomers Malaga and Belgian champions Anderlecht ended all square with the home side’s captain Duda netting in the 45th and 61st minutes, whilst the visitors' goals both came in the second half – courtesy of Milan Jovanovic just after the break and Dieudonne Mbokani, who equalised in the last minute.
Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini knew he could rest one or two first-choice players and the likes of Isco and Joaquin were left on the bench, with former Milan defender Oguchi Onyewu and ex-Manchester City and Blackburn striker Roque Santa Cruz both getting rare run-outs.
Duda’s opening goal frustrated the visitors on the stroke of half-time as they had just been denied a perfectly good goal of their own. Behrang Safari had put the ball past Malaga stand-in goalkeeper Carlos Kameni with an excellent individual strike, only for the officials to incorrectly signal that the non-interfering Jovanovic was offside.
Malaga of course did not care and raced up the other end, where skipper for the night Duda found some space on the edge of the area and curled a great shot into the top left corner, giving Anderlecht keeper Silvio Proto no chance.
After the break Anderlecht came out fighting and motivated by their sense of injustice. They struck back via the lively Jovanovic who picked up a loose ball just inside the area and chipped past the stranded Kameni, who had made a number of good saves before the break but was unable to protect Malaga’s good defensive record as he came in for usual starter Willy.
The hosts were back in front just over 10 minutes later thanks to a great effort by Portuguese midfielder Duda. He controlled a diagonal through ball from his Argentine colleague Diego Buonanotte, bringing it down on the left and smashing it past Proto for his second of the night.
Duda was hungry for a hat-trick and was pulling all the strings for Pellegrini’s side, directing all the set pieces and causing constant headache for the Anderlecht defence. It was therefore a surprise to see him depart in the 80th minute as Francisco Portillo came on to replace him.
Indeed Malaga lost their shape in the final 10 minutes and the match could have gone either way. Eventually Anderlecht got a deserved late equaliser with Mbokani slotting home Sacha Kljestan's sweet ball across the area, the goal scorer having moments earlier had a strike ruled out for offside.
A draw was a fair result and the two sides will look back on their Group C fixtures with hugely contrasting emotions, Anderlecht forced to evaluate another disappointing Champions League campaign, whilst Malaga look forward to the knockout stages in their debut season in Europe’s elite club competition.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Duda - Malaga: The stand-in captain on the night lead an under-strength Malaga side by example, scoring both goals and unlucky not to get a hat-trick.
MALAGA: Kameni 7, Weligton 6, Sergio Sanchez 6, Onyewu 6, Toulalan 6, Iturra 6, Duda 8, Eliseu 7, Buonanotte 7, Seba 6, Santa Cruz 6. Subs: Gamez 6, Camacho 6, Portillo 6.
ANDERLECHT: Proto 6, Deschacht 6, Kouyate 6, Safari 7, Biglia 7, Kljestan 6, Praet 6, Gillet 6, Jovanovic 7, Mbokani 7, Bruno 6. Subs: Vargas 6, De Sutter 6.
- Sports & Recreation