First Division - Day 36

Villarreal 2 - Málaga 1

Villarreal: Barbosa; Josemi, César Arzo, Peña, Javi Venta; José Marí (Calleja 70'), Josico, Tacchinardi, Riquelme; Guille Franco, Diego Forlán (Guayre 77'). 4-4-2.
Málaga: Arnau; Gabriel, Alexis, César Navas, Nacho; Gerardo (Salva 82'), Romero (Hidalgo 67'); Manu, Juan Rodríguez, Duda (Ribeiro 11'); Pablo Couñago. 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Villarreal: Josemi, José Marí, Josico, Tacchinardi, Riquelme for Quique Alvarez, Arruabarrena, Guayre, Marcos Senna, Héctor Font / Málaga: César Navas, Romero, Manu, Juan Rodríguez for Fernando Sanz, Edgar, Bovio, Salva.

1-0. 10. Guille Franco. Following up after Arzo flick came back off post.
2-0. 20. Tacchinardi. Got above defence to head Forlán cross past Arnau.
2-1. 22. Gerardo (penalty). After Gabriel felled by Javi Venta inside area.

Villarreal remained just two points behind Deportivo in the battle for the Intertoto spot after beating already relegated Málaga 2-1. Pellegrini's side took the lead early on when Guille Franco scored on the follow up after a clever back heel by César Arzo from Riquelme's cross came back off the post. The visitors came close to equalising, firstly when Pablo Couñago had a goal disallowed for offside and then when Manu headed a long free kick against the post, but soon afterwards the hosts went further ahead after Arnau pushed José Marí's header against the post, Forlán picking up the rebound and crossing in for Tacchinardi to head past the keeper.

Málaga did get the goal they deserved just a minute later after the referee awarded them a hotly disputed penalty for a push by Javi Venta on Gabriel, Gerardo converting the kick. And Venta did well before the break to keep out another effort from Juan Rodríguez which would have levelled the scores. Things quietened down after the restart, the only real chances a thunderous free kick from Ribeiro which Barbosa punched over the bar and a cross from Riquelme which almost found the net. But the home side had the points they needed to keep alive their hopes of an albeit more modest return to European football next season after this year's successes.