First Division - Day 37

Málaga 0 - Valencia 2

Málaga: Contreras; Josemi (Ivan Leko 78'), Fernando Sanz, Litos, Valcarce; Zárate (Manu 70'), Romero (Rojas 40'), Miguel Angel, Musampa; Darío Silva, Dely Valdés. 4-4-2.
Valencia: Cañizares; Curro Torres, Pellegrino (Djukic 90'), Ayala, Fabio Aurelio; Albelda, Baraja; Rufete, Aimar (Carew 80'), Vicente; Angulo (Mista 75'). 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Málaga: Fernando Sanz, Litos, Zárate for Bravo, Larrainzar, Gerardo / Valencia: Curro Torres, Pellegrino, Fabio Aurelio for Djukic, Carboni, Mista.

0-1. 35. Ayala. Powerful header into roof of net from Vicente's corner.
0-2. 45. Fabio Aurelio. Took return pass from Aimar and shot over keeper.

Thirty one years of waiting are over! Valencia won the league title for the first time since 1971 after becoming the first side to beat Málaga in their own stadium since November. It was a magic night for the 3,000 or so fans who made the gruelling trip to the South coast, and also for the many thousands who watched from homes, bars and restaurants who flooded the streets of Valencia after their victory. All the league matches were scheduled to kick off at the same time on Sunday evening, and Rafa Benítez's side had to at least produce as good as result as Real Madrid's to ensure the championship. Carboni missed the match through suspension, but Curro Torres was back after his one match ban and there was a bonus for Benítez when Pellegrino was passed fit to play after a long lay off.

Málaga though were playing for a place in next season's UEFA cup, and they gave their visitors an early fright when Darío Silva's effort was blocked by Ayala on the line. Valencia gradually got their act together though, with the on-form duo of Baraja and Albelda (Beauty and the Beast as one sports paper called them) starting to take command in midfield. Zárate was replacing the suspended Gerardo on Málaga's right wing, but he tended to drift infield leaving Aurelio and Vicente free to create havoc down their flank. Angulo, back at centre forward after playing at right back last week, went close with a header and Aimar tested the keeper before Valencia took the lead, Ayala rising above the defence to head Vicente's corner over Contreras and in to the roof of the net.

Peiró was starting to despair, and with Romero unable to contain the slippery Aimar he took off the Uruguayan midfielder before the break to bring on Rojas. A couple of minutes later though Aimar found Fabio Aurelio with a neat return pass, and the Brazilian full back fired in a shot over the keeper for a second goal. At first Pérez Burrull disallowed the goal for offside, and for five minutes the referee debated with his linesman and both sets of players before finally deciding that it was a goal. Although television pictures subsequently showed that he was right in the end, there was an enormous outcry from the home team fans as the players left the pitch at half time.

From that moment on it was going to be an uphill battle for the Andalucians, and although they gave it their best after the interval they could not break down the orderly and well disciplined defence. In fact it was the visitors who came closest to scoring again through quick breakaways from Baraja and Mista, and with Madrid unable to score against Mallorca the visiting fans started to celebrate well before the end of the game. The fourth choice unfancied manager had done what Ranieri and Cúper could not, taking over the mantel from Alfredo di Stéfano who was in charge during that famous 1970/71 season. The disappointment of two successive Champions League final defeats was behind them, and festivities went on long into the night. Málaga's challenge for the UEFA place is virtually over, and they will at least have to beat Espanyol in Montjuic next weekend to have any chance. If not though, they will play the Intertoto cup. From a side fancied by many to go down this season, that is not so bad in the end.