First Division - Day 36

Athletic Bilbao 1 - Málaga 3

Bilbao: Lafuente; Lacruz, Alkorta, Oscar Vales, Larrazábal; Orbaiz, Alkiza; Joseba Etxeberria (Tiko 70'), Julen Guerrero, Ezquerro (Yeste 70'); Urzaiz. 4-2-3-1.
Málaga: Contreras; Rojas, Larrainzar, Fernando Sanz, Roteta; Rufete, Movilla, De los Santos, Musampa (Agostinho 80'); Edgar (Sandro 74'), Canabal. 4-4-2.

Team changes: Bilbao: Oscar Vales, Joseba Etxeberria, Julen Guerrero for Carlos García, Felipe, Yeste / Málaga: Rojas, Movilla, Musampa, Edgar for Bravo, Sandro, Agostinho, Dely Valdés.

0-1. 28. Musampa. Low shot from edge of area after Canabal laid ball back.
1-1. 77. Urzaiz. Scored into empty net after pass from Yeste.
1-2. 85. Sandro. Header at second attempt after first effort hit bar.
1-3. 89. Agostinho. Headed over keeper after centre from Sandro on right.

Málaga's midfield proved more than adequate replacements for their absent strikers as they went on to beat a poor Bilbao in the San Mames stadium for the first time in their history. The South coast side were missing their front two, with Dely Valdés on international duty and Darío Silva not yet recovered from an injury, and Edgar and Canabal started together in attack for the first time this season. Joaquín Peiró also replaced the injured Bravo with Rojas, and brought back Movilla in midfield. The Bilbao manager Txetxu Rojo put out a side containing his three Spanish internationals, Etxeberria, Guerrero and Urzaiz, for the first time in recent weeks, although their recent lack of form meant that none of them were included in Spain's latest squad. In fact Bilbao have only scored once in the last three games, and a poor 19,000 crowd turned up at the ground known as the Cathedral to watch their side.

Except for a brief spell in the first twenty minutes when Urzaiz caused some problems for Contreras, Bilbao once again disappointed their fans. Halfway through the first half Málaga took the lead through Musampa, who celebrated his return to the side with a softly hit shot with his unfavoured right foot which beat an unsighted Lafuente. Chances were few and far between, with only Canabal going close on a couple of occasions, and with twenty minutes to go Rojo decided to replace his two experienced wingers with youngsters Yeste and Tiko. Yeste's running had an almost immediate effect, and he combined with Guerrero to set up Urzaiz for an equalising goal, referee Ansuategui Roca ignoring Málaga's appeals for offside. That woke up the visitors who needed to win to keep up their challenge on the UEFA spots, and after Roteta brought two good saves out of Lafuente, substitute Sandro put them back in front, following up to make sure with his head after his first shot had bounced down just over the line off the crossbar.

Another substitute Agostinho added a third with a well placed header over the keeper, and the few Bilbao fans still in the ground booed their players off the pitch as the match came to an end. With presidential elections due to take place at the club midweek, Rojo has already said he will not be continuing, and each candidate has a new manager lined up for next season. The combination of results at other grounds means that they are mathematically safe, although they are now ten points behind their opponents in eleventh place. Málaga are only two points off the UEFA cup spots, and with the two teams above them, Celta and Villarreal, playing each other in the next match their hopes of a first ever appearance in Europe are high.