ANDERLECHT BAFFLED BY MALAGA
On a cold wet night in Brussels, an Oguchi Onyewu-less Malaga CF played Anderlecht out of the park, putting a trio of goals past them in the process in this Champions League contest.
Onyewu was not in uniform for the visitors, while Sacha Kljestan played the entire second half for the hosts.
Eliesu struck a wonder goal in first half stoppage time, followed by a second from Joaquin from the penalty spot and another from Eliseu just after the hour mark. The hosts however were unable to find the back of the net in front of their home crowd.
Sacha Kljestan started the game on the bench with coach John Van den Brom trying something different and starting central defender Cheikhou Kouyate in the midfield partnering captain Lucas Biglia. This obviously didn't go according to plan as the American came off the bench to start the second half and explained his role.
"[The coach] wanted me to settle the game down a bit and keep the ball more in the midfield because I think we lost too many balls in the first half," the Yank stated.
"I was to do my usual job; put in the work in the midfield and try to get the ball and move it forward. I think I did a good job with moving the ball forward but we didn't create too many good goal scoring opportunities."
In the first couple minutes of the game the boys from Brussels looked as if they belonged on the field with the Spaniards and pushed forward early on. In only the second minute Kanu raced down the middle of the field, found youngster Massimo Bruno on the wing but the return pass into the box ended up going behind Willy Caballero's goal, but it did show attacking intent.
Five minutes later another chance slipped away when Dieumerci Mbokani was unable to get to a through ball before the big Spanish keeper. Still in the 14th minute Olivier Deschacht sent a sweet cross in from the left which crossed teasingly past the goal mouth but alas, there was not a Mauves available for the tap in.
Malaga got themselves more into the game soon afterwards and at the 23 minute mark Isco, their attacking midfielder, was able to turn Kouyate and got a shot off just inside the box. Anderlecht's best player on the night, Silvio Proto, read it well and made the diving save.
Minutes later Joaquin was able to bear down on goal but Proto blocked the close range shot that fell to Javier Saviola, but the former Barcelona man was unable to make decent contact to tuck it away.
The barrage continued and when Saviola played the ball to Joaquin in the danger zone, he then picked out Isco who pulled the trigger. Los Boquerones were however again denied by the Belgian between the pipes.
The Belgian keeper must have felt much unloved because the balls just wouldn't stop coming at him yet again he kept les Mauves in the game when central midfielder Welington played Saviola through, and from a half dozen yards out, was unable to beat Proto who pushed the ball over his crossbar.
Just before the intermission however, the Spaniards lit up the scoreboard. The opening goal came off of a corner kick that was cleared out of the box and fell to Eliseu who, from 25 yards out, hit a spectacular shot that Proto or any other goalkeeper wouldn't have been able to stop as it made its way into the top left hand corner.
Kljestan came on to start the second half and two minutes in got off a shot from distance that Caballero had little trouble holding on to.
But after the domination of the first half, Malaga did exactly the same in the second half. Kouyate, who was pushed back to his defensive position after the introduction of his American team mate, gifted the visitors a penalty kick when he brought down Nacho Monreal. Joaquin took the ball and knocked it into the top left corner of the Belgian goal to double the lead in the 56th minute.
Less than ten minutes later Eliseu beat the offside trap and chipped the ball over the advancing Proto for their third goal. The Belgian keeper turned around to see the ball ripple his net thus putting the game to bed.
Anderlecht did have a few half chances when they managed to hold onto the ball such as when Biglia found Guillaume Gillet advancing into the box, but the Belgian international's header cleared the crossbar.
In the 85th minute les Mauves almost gained some respect when Kljestan found himself in the box with the ball but couldn't get around the defender and pull the trigger. It did however, make its way to Mbokani, but his effort was cleared for a corner kick that cleared, sending Malaga charging down the other end of the field yet again.
In stoppage time Mbokani had one last chance to put his team on the scoreboard but the cross from Deschacht was fluffed and the opportunity gone.
"I think they were much stronger than us, that's for sure," Kljestan said after the loss. "You can see the talent and the style of Malaga. It's a really good team. They haven't lost a game this season yet and they showed why tonight."
"Perhaps since they were in pot four [of the Champions League draw] maybe people underestimated them. We knew that they were gonna be good; they were just better than us tonight."
Regarding how the Spaniards were able to dominate, the Californian said, "The thing that the Spanish teams do best is the movement off the ball. They always had options to play and we weren't able to keep up with that in certain moments tonight."
Yet it wasn't just the attack that played strongly but also the defenders earned their night's pay.
"Their defenders did a good job tonight of playing very physical with us and not letting us have a lot of time and space. It was tough for all of us out there tonight. Their defenders were strong and we didn't play well enough."
Anderlecht will hope to get back to winning ways when they return to league play this weekend but it will not be easy as they hit the road to take on Onyewu's former team, Standard Liege.