Villarreal topped by big-spending Malaga

Malaga’s offseason spending spree continued to pay off as it beat the visiting Villarreal 2-1 on Monday in the Spanish league.

The win kept Malaga in fifth place and within three points of the Champions League positions.

Jeremy Toulalan and Francisco ”Isco” Alarcon, both bought in this summer as part of the club’s €60 million ($85 million) overhaul, scored for Malaga.

Malaga controlled the flow of play at La Rosaleda stadium while Villarreal sat back waiting to spring on the break.

Toulalan grabbed Malaga’s fifth-minute opener with a header at the near post from a corner by ex-Villarreal playmaker Santi Cazorla.

Striker Marco Ruben equalized for Villarreal in the 16th by firing in Borja Valero’s through ball after Bruno Soriano had started a counterattack by recovering the ball just inside Malaga’s half.

The hosts went back in front for good in the 40th when a sliding Isco guided in a rebound after Villarreal goalkeeper Diego Lopez did well to block a shot by Jose Rondon.

Malaga played a man down from the 75th when Toulalan received his second booking, and goalkeeper Willy Caballero made a diving save from Valero’s resulting free kick to secure the win as Malaga remained undefeated in its last four games.

It was the first loss in four games for Villarreal, which sits two points above the relegation zone.

Over the weekend, Real Madrid extended its lead to six points at the top of the league after a comeback 4-1 win against nine-man Atletico Madrid, while second-place Barcelona lost 1-0 at Getafe.

Valencia beat Rayo Vallecano 2-1 to trail Barcelona by one point, with Levante a further point back in fourth place after thrashing Sporting Gijon 4-0.

Also, it was: Real Betis 2, Real Sociedad 3; Mallorca 2, Racing Santander 1; Espanyol 1, Osasuna 2; Athletic Bilbao 0, Granada 1; and Zaragoza 0, Sevilla 1.