Malaga and Celta Vigo played out a hard-fought 1-1 Liga draw on the Costa Del Sol, with the home side fortunate not to lose late on.
Argentine defender Martin Demichelis finished from close range on 37 minutes to put Malaga ahead, but his team’s performance – and his own – degenerated as Celta equalised through Augusto Fernandez, with the visitors denied a winner by a fantastic injury-time stop from Willy Caballero.
The result leaves Malaga fifth, while Celta stay 17th but move two points above the relegation zone.
An entertaining and open first half saw Malaga, as expected, dictate the play while Celta threatened on the break.
Indeed, the struggling visitors have regularly looked dangerous while counter-attacking this season, but a combination of defensive frailty and poor finishing has seen them land at the wrong end of the table.
They should have taken the lead too as Fernandez failed to convert the lively Iago Aspas’s low ball.
At the other end Roque Santa Cruz – preferred to Javier Saviola – elected to play cut-backs on two occasions as he raced in down the left, both times his team-mates failing to continue their runs.
Caballero has been one of the better keepers in Spain this season and he impressed again with a superb stop from Denmark’s Michael Krohn-Dehli, again after fine play from Aspas, although the Spanish forward was guilty of a bad miss when he finished weakly at Caballero after a defensive mix-up.
Soon afterwards the visitors were punished for their profligacy when Demichelis bundled home from close range after Javi Varas kept out Santa Cruz’s finish.
The chance arose after Celta failed to clear a free-kick, and there were multiple complaints to the referee over alleged offsides and handballs in what was an extended build-up. Replays showed the offsides to have been inactive, and hinted that Santa Cruz did not use his arm when his initial effort bounced back into his path.
The visitors used the perceived injustice to take the game to Malaga in the second half, although they failed to create too many clear-cut chances, the best of which was when substitute Enrique de Lucas wriggled clear but hesitated with his finish, unable to round Caballero.
The home side, meanwhile, were toiling, with full-back Sergio Sanchez the stand-out player and Santa Cruz spurning another good chance before making way for Javier Saviola.
However, the visiting pressure finally paid off with a quarter of an hour remaining as a fantastic through-ball from Krohn-Dehli ricocheted off Alex Lopez and Weligton before dropping to Fernandez, who rifled a low finish past the startled Caballero.
That made for a frantic finish, with unmarked Celta defender Gustavo Cabral somehow firing over when the ball landed to him at the far post, while Caballero made a brilliant save from Fernandez after Demichelis – now a liability – let his fellow Argentine through.
There was more injury-time drama as Carlos Bellvis made a great interception on Sanchez, while Malaga defender Weligton did likewise as De Lucas exploited more poor defending from Demichelis.
But a draw was the final result, the point taken more gratefully by relegation-battling Celta.