Malaga sign off with a win
Last Updated: 16/05/14 10:50pm
Malaga completed a disappointing campaign on a winning note with a 1-0 victory over Levante in a Friday night encounter that had little riding on it for either side.
Malaga finished fourth in 2012 and sixth last term but, after losing a number of key figures last summer including coach Manuel Pellegrini and star playmaker Isco, they have spent much of this season fighting at the wrong end of the Primera Division table.
They had secured their top-flight status prior to Friday's visit of Levante - and Francisco Portillo's 60th-minute strike secured them the victory and a positive end to the campaign.
It should have been a more comfortable win for the hosts in what was Bernd Schuster's final match as coach - but substitute Jose Manuel Casado blazed a late penalty over the bar.
Levante had been reduced to 10 men by that stage with Papakouli Diop sent off nine minutes from time after picking up a second booking.
The result means Malaga finished the campaign on 45 points, three behind Levante.
Schuster, who has been told by the Andalusian club his services will not be required next season despite signing a five-year deal last summer, saw his side hold leaders Atletico Madrid to a 1-1 draw last weekend and they enjoyed a promising start to this match as well.
Eliseu Pereira and Nacho Camacho both fired wide before visiting keeper Keylor Navas did well to keep out efforts from Ezequiel Rescaldani, Nordin Amrabat and Pablo Perez in a one-sided first half.
Levante had beaten derby rivals Valencia and title-chasing Atletico in their last two matches but they were struggling to make any in-roads at La Rosaleda, and it was no surprise to see Malaga make the decisive breakthrough on the hour through Portillo.
Navas denied Amrabat following a well-worked Malaga move, but the loose ball fell to Portillo and he drilled a low shot through a crowd of players and into the net.
That proved to be the only goal of the game, but Malaga had chances for more - none better than from the penalty spot in stoppage-time after Juanmi had been fouled by Alberto Nagore.
Casado, who had only replaced Perez in the 82nd minute, took responsibility but he fired his effort over the bar.
That was a reprieve for 10-man Levante, who lost midfielder Diop for a foul on Portillo - but they could not take advantage in the few minutes that remained as Malaga held on for the points.