Barcelona missed the chance to go joint top of La Liga, instead losing ground on Real Madrid as Malaga claimed a well-deserved 2-0 win at La Rosaleda.
The 1-1 draw between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in the Madrid derby earlier in the day gave Luis Enrique’s side the chance to draw level with their title rivals at the top of the standings, but it proved to be chance they spurned.
Sandro Ramirez scored the opener, making the most of Jeremy Mathieu’s abysmal defending to break in behind the Barcelona backline and find the net against his former club with a low finish past Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.
Enrique sought to address his team’s lack of creativity and energy by introducing Andres Iniesta at the break, only for Barca to find their fightback hindered by Neymar’s dismissal, with the Brazilian shown a second yellow card for a rash challenge on Diego Llorente.
Malaga made sure of the win in stoppage time, with Jony scoring to give the hosts the 2-0 advantage their performance warranted. Barcelona will now prepare for next week’s Champions League quarter-final against Juventus knowing they must raise their game to stand any chance against the Italians.
TALKING POINT - The Clasico is now a must-win match for Barcelona
The Clasico on April on April 23 was always likely to be a factor in the destination of this season’s Spanish Liga title, but it has now taken on a different dimension in light of Barcelona’s defeat to Malaga. The Catalans are now three points behind Real Madrid, who also hold a game in hand. If Barca are to win the title they must come out on top at the Santiago Bernabeu later this month.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Sandro Ramirez
The former Barcelona striker came back to haunt his former club, scoring the opener for Malaga. But Sandro’s performance was about so much more than just the goal he scored, with the physical frontman keeping the Catalans occupied throughout, giving them a real threat on the counter attack. He, more than anyone else, put Barcelona to the sword, which is ironic given that they allowed him to leave Camp Nou on a free last summer.
Malaga - Kameni 6, Rosales 7, Llorente 7, Hernandez 7, Ricca 6, Recio 7, Camacho 6, Juanpi 7, Fornals 8, Carlos 6, Sandro 8. Subs - Jony 7, Charles 6, Penaranda 7.
Barcelona - Ter Stegen 5, Mascherano 5, Umtiti 7, Mathieu 4, Denis 5, Busquets 5, Gomes 5, Alba 5, Messi 6, Neymar 4, Suarez 5. Subs - Roberto 5, Iniesta 5, Alcacer 5.
Read the full article on eurosport.co.uk: Malaga spring shock victory over Barcelona