Primera Division: Blow for Malaga as they lose 2-1 at Villarreal
Last Updated: 17/05/15 9:00pm
Malaga's European hopes suffered a blow with a 2-1 loss at Villarreal on Sunday.
Substitute Gerard Moreno scored twice in the final eight minutes for the hosts and though Sergi Darder pulled one back in injury time, there was no way back for Malaga.
They dropped to eighth in the Primera Division table as Athletic Bilbao staged a late rally to win 3-2 at Elche.
Malaga started the match brightly and Nordin Amrabat saw an early shot blocked before threading in Javi Guerra for a six-yard effort across the face of goal.
Ricardo Horta was a creative influence for the visitors and teed up Samu Castillejo and Guerra, but the former failed to find the target while the latter's header was saved.
Guerra turned provider when he nodded the ball down for Amrabat, whose shot was blocked.
Rosales had a long-range effort saved before Villarreal finally showed as an attacking force with half-time approaching - Manu Trigueros fired wide of the near post before Victor Ruiz headed Jaume Costa's corner wide.
Villarreal were more solid defensively as the second half got under way, with Malaga restricted to long-range shots. Darder was off target twice while Amrabat drew a good low save from home goalkeeper Juan Carlos.
Another Costa corner created an opportunity for Villarreal but Bruno this time could not find the target.
The breakthrough finally came in the 82nd minute when Gerard, sent on by coach Marcelino 10 minutes earlier in place of Giovani dos Santos, tapped in a low cross from just outside the six-yard box.
He was on target again five minutes later from the edge of the box to effectively seal the result for Villarreal, who already knew they would finish the season in sixth place.
Amrabat went close for Malaga before Duda crossed for Darder to head home, but it was not enough to save the visitors from a costly defeat.
As news arrived of Bilbao's comeback win, Malaga were left facing a two-point deficit behind the seventh-placed Basque side going into the final round of games.
Seventh place could carry a place in the Europa League should Athletic lose the Copa del Rey final to league champions Barcelona.