Malaga claim nervy win; Sevilla drop points to Valencia
BARCELONA, Spain —
Malaga held on to beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0 to kick off the Spanish league on Saturday and give new coach Javi Gracia a winning debut at La Rosaleda Stadium, although the game was marred by two red cards in the final minutes.
Also, 10-man Valencia salvaged a 1-1 draw at Sevilla, while Granada came from behind to beat visiting Deportivo La Coruna 2-1.
Malaga scored in the 34th minute when Luis Alberto, who is on loan from Liverpool, converted the rebound from his own missed penalty after goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz blocked his spot kick.
Striker Roque Santa Cruz had earned the penalty by poaching Carlos Gurpegui’s backpass and drawing a foul from Iraizoz in the area.
Malaga’s balanced defense limited Bilbao to Mikel Rico’s header by the far post in the 65th and Guillermo Fernandez’s header into the arms of goalie Carlos Kameni in the 87th.
That was until tempers flared near the end, when Malaga lost two players with direct red cards and gave Bilbao its best chance of the match.
Sergio ”Duda” Barbosa was first sent off for shoving Bilbao’s Iker Muniain to the turf in the 88th, and Vitorino Antunes compounded that error by earning his exit with a dangerous tackle to cut down Fernandez two minutes into stoppage time.
Iraizoz came forward in the final minute and thought he had grabbed an unlikely equalizer when he headed into the net, but the referee disallowed the goal because a line judge apparently ruled a Bilbao player offside on the free kick.
Even Gracia, who took over at Malaga after coaching Osasuna last season, praised Iraizoz and questioned the referee’s decision to annul his goal.
”I saw a great goal by Gorka,” said Gracia. ”I saw the line judge lift his flag, but I don’t know why.”
Bilbao must quickly regroup from its stumble. The Basque club hosts Napoli on Wednesday in the second leg of their Champions League playoff after they drew 1-1 in their first meeting.
In Seville, Valencia’s Pablo Piatti went close in the eighth with a shot that bounced off both posts, but forward Aleix Vidal put Sevilla ahead in the final minute of the first half following Victor ”Vitolo” Machin’s precise long pass to spring Carlos Bacca on the break.
Sevilla lost goalkeeper Antonio ”Beto” Bastos to a left thigh injury in the first half. He was replaced by new arrival Mariano Barbosa.
Valencia played a man down from the 66th after Rodrigo de Paul received a direct red card for elbowing Vidal in the face, ending the Argentine’s European debut just one minute after he had gone on as a substitute.
Sevilla, however, failed to take advantage of the sending off, and Valencia substitute Lucas Urban chested a deflected shot over the goalline in the 88th to secure a point in the debut of coach Nuno Espirito Santo.
Granada rallied to ruin Deportivo La Coruna’s return to the top flight on a night when neither goalkeeper had a good day.
Deportivo struck first in the 20th when Granada goalie Stole Dimitrievski let Ivan Cavaleiro’s shot slip by.
But Granada rallied after forward Ruben Rochina scored with a strike from outside the area in the 55th.
Granada defender Jean-Sylvain Babin completed the comeback in the 77th when he flicked in a free kick while keeper German Lux made no effort to reach either the cross or his header.
Barcelona hosts Elche on Sunday. Atletico Madrid begins its title defense at Rayo Vallecano on Monday, when Real Madrid also welcomes Cordoba.