Malaga beat Athletic Bilbao in opener


Liverpool loanee Luis Alberto scored the decisive goal on his debut for Malaga as the Andalusian side got their season off to a winning start with a 1-0 success over Athletic Bilbao in a gripping game at La Rosaleda. Tensions boiled over in the closing stages and two Malaga players – Duda and Vitorino Antunes – were given straight red cards for serious foul play. There was yet further drama as Athletic goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz appeared to head in an equaliser in injury time – only for it to be ruled out for a foul, to the fury of the Athletic players and coaching staff. Alberto saw a first half penalty saved by Iraizoz but knocked in the rebound and it was enough to see off the Basques, who looked as if they were still feeling the effects of their 1-1 draw with Napoli in midweek. Although fortunate in the end to take all three points, it was a strong performance from Malaga in new coach Javi Gracia's first game in charge of Los Boquerones. The Malaga line-up featured just two new faces, Portuguese youngster Ricardo Horta and full-back Roberto Rosales – but the hosts played with a greater intensity than Athletic, who made just one change from the starting line-up that turned out in Naples. It took 15 minutes for the clearest opening of the game to arrive. Iker Muniain carved open the defence with a curled pass with the outside of the boot to release Aritz Aduriz – but the striker failed to bring the ball around Malaga stopper Carlos Kameni. Malaga broke immediately and could have taken the lead themselves. Rosales got down the right and played a diagonal ball in which the Athletic defence failed to clear. The ball fell to Juanmi but his shot was deflected wide for a corner. The chance preceded a spell of heavy pressure from the hosts, with the lively Horta flashing two shots just wide of a post in quick succession. Ten minutes before the break the hosts got the breakthrough their pressure warranted. Athletic defender Carlos Gurpegui badly misjudged a through-ball and Iraizoz came rushing out of his goal, toppling Roque Santa Cruz. The goalkeeper was fortunate to escape with just a booking and managed to save Luis Alberto's spot-kick – but could only palm it back into the path of the forward, who tapped it back into the net. The second half began with a flurry of chances for both sides, the best falling to Mikel Rico, who glanced a header just wide of the far post following a free-kick. Malaga substitute Samuel Garcia could also have made for a more comfortable end to the game for the hosts when he caught sight of goal with seven minutes remaining – but hammered the ball the wrong side of the far post. Things turned ugly as the 90 minutes elapsed, with Duda sent off for throwing Muniain to the floor, then Antunes following moments later for a reckless lunge on Guillermo Fernandez. However, arguably the most dramatic moment of the game was still to come. Iraizoz came up for a free-kick and stunned the home crowd by heading into the far corner – but referee Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz rescued Malaga by giving a foul against the goalkeeper.