Espanyol knocks off Malaga; Elche and Athletic draw
MADRID (AP) — A second-half goal from Luis ”Pizzi” Afonso earned Espanyol a 2-1 victory at Malaga in the Spanish league on Tuesday, while Elche held fourth-place Athletic Bilbao to a 0-0 draw.
Cristian Stuani laid the ball off for Sergio Garcia to smash home an angled shot as Espanyol took the lead in the 32nd minute. Malaga leveled two minutes later despite Pablo Perez being offside when he collected the ball before lifting a shot over goalkeeper Francisco Casilla.
Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero made a number of key saves but couldn’t reach Pizzi’s winner in the 75th. Malaga’s rally was stalled when Perez was red carded moments later.
”An important win for ensuring we stay up in the first division,” Garcia said after Espanyol reached 40 points to go provisionally eighth.
Athletic, which currently holds the final Champions League qualifying spot, provisionally stretched its advantage over fifth-place Sevilla to nine points. Sevilla hosts Real Madrid, which is looking to rebound from its weekend defeat to Barcelona, on Wednesday.
Neither team dominated at the Elche’s Martinez Valero Stadium, with Bilbao coming close in the 16th when goalkeeper Manuel Herrera palmed Ander Herrera’s curling free kick over the bar.
The host’s best chance came in the 72nd when Christian Herrera cut a shot back across the box but it ran wide of the far post.
Elche moved three points clear of 18th-place Getafe and the drop.
”The weather didn’t help, the pitch didn’t help, neither team played great,” Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera said. ”I think we could have offered a better performance.”
Atletico Madrid leads the standings with 70 points, the same as Madrid but it enjoys the tiebreaker.
Atletico plays Granada on Wednesday, when Barcelona faces Celta Vigo. Defending champion Barcelona trails the two Madrid clubs by a single point going into the 30th round of games.