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Malaga and Mallorca flying high after victories

Malaga came through their Champions League playoff at Panathinaikos on Tuesday. -Photo by AP

MADRID: Malaga celebrated qualifying for the Champions League group stage for the first time with a 1-0 victory at Real Zaragoza that put the Qatar-owned club level on points with Real Mallorca at the top of La Liga on Saturday.

Manuel Pellegrini's Malaga were deserved winners on a poor, sand-strewn Romareda pitch thanks to Ignacio Camacho's near-post header from a corner in the 56th minute.

Mallorca then saw off Real Sociedad in the late kickoff after Victor Casadesus stooped to nod the ball into the corner of the net 15 minutes from time to secure a 1-0 win at the Iberostar Estadi.

Both teams have seven points from three matches, one ahead of Barcelona, Real Valladolid and Rayo Vallecano who all play on Sunday.

Malaga have managed to shrug off institutional instability and the departure of key players like Santi Cazorla to make a solid start to the season and came through their Champions League playoff at Panathinaikos on Tuesday.

They were drawn in Group C of Europe's elite club competition along with AC Milan, Zenit St Petersburg and Anderlecht.

Pellegrini and his players have kept their focus despite widespread media speculation that owner Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani, a member of the Qatar royal family, had put the club up for sale after only two years.

Malaga have said they are undergoing a process of “internal restructuring” and after offloading Spain midfielder Cazorla to Arsenal and Venezuela striker Salomon Rondon to Rubin Kazan have brought in players including United States defender Oguchi Onyewu and Paraguay striker Roque Santa Cruz.

Pellegrini told a news conference he was pleased his players had been able to maintain their intensity after their exertions in Europe in midweek and slammed the state of the pitch.

“There was no tiredness left over from Tuesday and the players fought for every ball,” said the Chilean, a former Real Madrid and Villarreal coach.

“I was worried about a possible relaxation but the players showed they were mentally prepared. My conclusions are very positive considering the pitch was not in the right condition to play a game of football.”

SWIFT BREAK

Getafe followed up last weekend's surprise 2-1 win at home to champions Real Madrid when they fought back to salvage a 1-1 draw at promoted Deportivo Coruna.

Riki put the home side ahead with a crashing left-foot drive in the sixth minute before Getafe's French-born midfielder Abdelaziz Barrada, who scored the winner against Real, finished off a swift break in the 26th.

Depor are sixth on five points and Getafe a point behind in ninth.

Promoted Celta Vigo earned their first points of the campaign when they beat visiting Osasuna 2-0.

Iago Aspas fired the Galicians ahead with a 69th-minute header and Mario Bermejo added a second in stoppage time after a defensive error.

Osasuna had Alejandro Arribas sent off when the defender earned a second yellow card seven minutes from time.

Barca are at home to Valencia on Sunday when Real Madrid, who have one point from two matches, host Granada.

Valladolid also play at point-less Athletic Bilbao and Rayo host Sevilla.


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