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Málaga makes history and qualifies for the UEFA Champions League

Málaga Club de Fútbol has made history. The team has reached the group stages of the UEFA Champions League after defeating Panathinaikos in the play-offs by an overall score of 2-0.

Following the previous victory in La Rosaleda, and the goalless draw in the Spyros Louis Olympic Stadium tonight, Manuel Pellegrini’s men have reached the group stage of the biggest competition in Europe, alongside some of the best times on the continent.  Málaga CF is now in Thursday’s draw to determine their rivals in the Champions League group stage.

Málaga CF didn’t hesitate in creating their first chance to score in the Spyros Louis Stadium tonight, and put Pellegrini’s tactics and strategy into practice straight after kick off.  An initial attacking display by Gámez in the first minute, led to a great ball and a chance for Fabrice, but the shot went to the right of the Kamezis goal.  The Blue and Whites made their intention to dominate the match perfectly clear within the first few minutes.
It wasn’t until minute seven when Panathinaikos created a few problems in the ‘Malaguista’ penalty area.  A promising midfield kick by Spyropoulos was deflected off Monreal, leading to a quick retaliation from Málaga.  A shot by Isco, followed by another chance for young Fabrice after an alleged foul on Isco, wasn’t recognised by the ref.  The ‘Malaguistas’ continued their dominance and determination to score, leading to another shot from Isco and a powerful Demichelis header, though neither pass converted into a goal.  The referee failed to call a penalty on Eliseu in the 17th minute, or a controversial action in Willy’s six yard box minutes later.

The match began to lose the initial intensity, though Málaga continued to maintain possession; Panathinaikos were only able to stop Pellegrini’s men with fouls.  The visitors were close to scoring the first goal of tonight’s match in minute 28, with a shot from the left corner of the penalty area that went just a metre too far right of the goal.

Joaquín had one of the best chances to score just after the first half hour.  Camacho took advantage of poor clearance from the keeper following the Joaquín corner, but the shot was saved by Panathinaikos captain, Christodoupoulos.  The referee again ignored another foul committed on Joaquín, during a poor defence tackle by the local side, as the Málaga striker made it to the Panathinaikos penalty area on his own in minute 37.

The Blue and Whites came on to the pitch in the second half, in much the same way as the start of the match.  The team was completely focused on the job in hand, and a fantastic shot by Toulalan in the 51st minute was so close to putting Málaga first on tonight’s score board.  A Panathinaikos free kick taken by Katsouranis, which narrowly missed the goal by just over a metre, was enough to rekindle the Málaga nerves.  The locals appeared to increase in confidence somewhat as the match went on.

However Pellegrini’s team was not intimidated in the slightest.  As Juanmi came on to the pitch, he was unable to convert an excellent counter attack by Isco and Joaquín into a goal.  In minute 68, another shot by Isco was again saved by Kamezis directly in front of the penalty area.

The Blue and Whites continued to be the superior team in the latter stage of the game.  They maintained possession and kept the ball well away from Willy Caballero’s goal.  However the Málaga keeper was shown a yellow card for allegedly wasting time.
A Joaquín free kick in the 78th minute resulted in a corner, which landed at Eliseu’s feet in front of the penalty area, though the defender was unable to score.  Then a goal from Camacho three minutes before full time was disallowed by the referee.  Mirroring the first leg match in La Rosaleda, Panathinaikos had two chances to score just before the final whistle, one goal, though saved by Willy, was offside, and another ball deflected off Weligton that went to a corner, failed to come to fruition.

Málaga CF was the superior team throughout the play-offs, and has now earned the right to take part in the biggest competition in Europe, the UEFA Champions League.