Manuel Pellegrini’s men made light work of relegation-threatened Racing in a one-sided game where the visitors never managed a single shot on goal in the 90 minutes, although they were not helped by the second-minute dismissal of defender Francis who pulled Jose Salomon Rondon down in the area. Santi Cazorla missed the resultant penalty, goalkeeper Mario Fernandez guessing right to turn his shot round the post, and Enzo Maresca was unlucky minutes later with a drive that came back off the woodwork.
However, it seemed only a matter of time before Malaga achieved the breakthrough and it came after 22 minutes when Isco curled in an unstoppable shot from the left-hand side of the area. The one-way traffic continued after that, with Racing struggling to get out of their own half, and in truth Malaga will have been disappointed to have gone in at the interval just one goal to the good.
The second half continued in much the same vein, with the Cantabrians clinging on for dear life, yet it took until the 67th minute for Malaga to double their advantage when Cazorla made amends for his earlier miss by getting on the end of Maresca’s superb through ball to fire past substitute keeper Dani Sotres, who had replaced Mario just after half time.
The Costa del Sol side kept on creating numerous opportunities and veteran Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy gave the scoreline a more realistic look six minutes from time, coming off the bench to head in Duda’s left-wing cross to complete a fine performance by Pellegrini’s side.
“The team played very well,” said Pellegrini afterwards, “although our opponents were down to 10 men early on. Despite missing the penalty we created a lot of chances and dominated the game with lots of patience, and gave Racing no alternatives.
“It’s not the end of the league, there are seven games still to go, and we have never set ourselves a target. We just want to show we deserve to be there. But it’s not easy being in third place with powerful institutions such as Valencia, Sevilla and Atl