The big-spending home side managed to survive the dismissal of its French midfielder to clinch a crucial three points in their race for European soccer
Manuel Pellegrini's home side was able to survive Toulalan's ambiguous dismissal in the closing stages and held out for an important victory in its race to join Europe's elite next season.
Pellegrini had to contend with a number of missing players heading into the clash, with Julio Baptista, Apono, Jesus Gamez, and Joaquin all sidelined. The Yellow Submarine continue to struggle with injuries, too, and coach Juan Carlos Garrido has been forced to employ some of the club's B team talents to replace the likes of Giuseppe Rossi, Nilmar and Cani, who remain sidelined.
Garrido's inexperienced squad has struggled to keep clean sheets as a result, and their evening in Andalusia got off to the worst possible start as Malaga claimed an early advantage. Five minutes in Santi Cazorla, once the darling of El Madrigal, swung in a delivery, finding Toulalan, who duly nodded home from close range.
To their credit, however, Garrido's men responded positively to the setback and netted a superb equalizer 10 minutes later. A swift attack found Borja Valero driving through the center – he timed his pass perfectly into the path of Marco Ruben, and the Argentine lashed his effort into the top corner from the angle of the area.
But Villarreal's defensive deficiencies once again arose before the interval. After Jonathan De Guzman had tamely struck at Willy Caballero at the other end, Malaga attacked through Jose Rondon. His low shot from the left was blocked by Diego Lopez, but Isco prodded the loose ball home, and the home side were back ahead.
Into the second half, and Villarreal gave as good as it got in terms of possession, but lacked any real penetration in the final third. It was given a route back into the match, though, with 15 minutes remaining.
Toulalan, who had been booked in the first half, was involved in what seemed to be an innocuous clash with Hernan Perez. Contact appeared minimal, but referee Carlos Velasco Carballo deemed the incident worthy of another caution for the Frenchman.
Carballo had failed to notice a seemingly clear penalty when Martin Demichelis dragged Marco Ruben to the ground in the first half, and his officiating garnered a plethora of condemnation from the stands.
From the resulting free kick, Valero whipped in a vicious, dipping shot that Caballero somehow clawed to safety from underneath the crossbar, and Malaga's lead was preserved by the finest of margins.
That was as close as the visitors came – they were unable to make their man advantage count, and slideto defeat as their miserable season continues. Malaga, meanwhile, can look upwards from fifth spot, just three points behind overachieving Levante.