Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Malaga gains revenge on Levante to stay ahead in the battle for 4th place in La Liga

Malaga gains revenge on Levante to stay ahead in the battle for 4th place in La Liga
by rick olivares

This was a game between the haves and the have-nots. Malaga, if the plot stays true to form, should add more pieces to the puzzle as Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani of Qatar now owns them. And Los Boquerones can possibly become the Manchester City of La Liga.

For a while there, the template for Malaga was Real Madrid as their previous top management of Lorenzo and Fernando Sanz had the blood of Los Merengues in them but they also brought in former Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini and striker Ruud van Nistelrooy.

In the second year of the Qatari ownership, Malaga has moved up from 14th (from the 2010-11 season) to fourth this campaign. They have displaced free-falling Villareal that has tumbled so perilously close to the relegation zone at 17th place.

For Match #26, Los Boquerones faced the fifth-place Granotas, Levante.

Levante has quite a story. They have been a team of discards and cast-offs. The team’s collective budget for the year is far less than the one-year salary of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi. That already says something about this Euro-pinching club. Their former manager, Luis Garcia Plaza, bought out his own contract to move to Getafe, since his team did not have the money to move him. In Plaza’s place, they brought in Juan Ignacio Martinez, or “Coach Jim” (the acronym of his initials), who played never higher than the fourth division. Martinez played for eight clubs in eight different years. Now if that isn’t synchronicity with his club of discards and cast-offs then I don’t know what is.

In the first clash between the Andalusian club (Malaga) and the Valencia team (Levante), Granotas defended their homefield of Estado de Ciudad Valencia 3-0 last October 16. Jose Barkero, Juan Gomez Lopez, and Arouna Kona scored for Martinez’ side.

Pellegrini left van Nistelrooy, Joris Mathijsen, and Enzo Maresca on the bench this time around as he opted to start Brazilian defender Robson, Portuguese forward Eliseu, and Joaquin Sanchez.

Martinez on the other hand, started Argentinean defender Gustavo Cabral, defenders Asler del Horno and Pedro Lopez, and forwards Abdelkader Ghezzal and Oscar Sernan over Juan Garcia, Nano, Javier Rodriguez Venta, Iborra, and Valdo.

The shut out was of course on Los Bonquerones’ minds so upon kick off at La Rosaleda, they never let their foes in the game. Pellegrini’s 4-2-3-1 formation was designed to choke the ball out from the Levante mids and they did so with great success. The Granotas defenders were forced to look for Kona with several long balls that he had great difficulty in gaining control from the tight guarding Malaga defenders.

Malaga in the meantime saw midfielders Jeremy Toulalan, Santo Cazorla, and Francisco “Isco” Roman Suarez feed Venezuelan striker Salomon Rondon an early diet of through balls and crosses. The high press of Malaga forced Levante to back pedal and try to get their attempts off the counter (that was largely ineffective).

In the 51st minute, Rondon re-directed Joaquin’s cross into the far post past the diving Gustavo Munua who had a busy afternoon as his midfield’s inability to bring up the ball to their forwards put his defense under so much duress all match long.

Levante mysteriously played with less energy after that just when they needed to show some urgency. And it was only with four minutes (plus the added for minutes of stoppage time) to show some purpose to their assault. Late sub Nabil el Zhar nearly equalized at the final second of the game but his volley was inches above the cross bar.

The win put Malaga at fourth but only two points ahead of Levante.

Next week, Los Boqueranos will play Real Sociedad at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez while Levante hopes that the home cooking will allow them to dispatch slumping Villareal. 

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