I’m going to be brief, I’m in a rush to get out.
MON seemed to be thinking along the lines I was when I wrote the preview – throw the senior guys in from the start, the Malaga side have played no more football in pre-season than they had. I picked this up from TV commentary though – apparently Malaga achieved their impressive 8th La Liga finish last season with a fair number of loan players and have been scrambling to pull a squad together for the start of this tournament. I’ll look into that at some point as I also heard a lot of nonsense from that commentator!!
The team that started in a 4-4-2:- Friedel, Lichaj, Cuellar, Davies, Shorey, Reo-Coker, Sidwell, Petrov (c), Young, Heskey, Carew. Subs:- Bannan, Albrighton, Harewood, Lowry, Clark, Guzan, Parish, Herd, Osbourne.
Heskey was involved in a nasty clash of heads around 5 minutes in and was stretchered off. He’s now recovering from a slight concussion. I’m sure no one will want to see any of our players injured, but if you favour MON playing a 4-5-1 formation then you might be forgiven a wry smile as Albrighton was brought on as a replacement.
With Zat Knight leaving us and Luke Young just coming back from injury (thanks to IanRobo for the info), Eric Lichaj got a start at right back. Quite remarkable when you think that NRC could easily have been thrown in there.
Anyway, the first half was unremarkable. Slow pace, little interest in trying to get ahead in the game. Albrighton took a few minutes to slow down to the relaxed pace, but soon looked as settled in a senior team as his reserve team mate behind him.
0-0 at half time with Malaga possibly looking the stronger, but not much in it.
No changes at half time and it started as slowly as it finished. Harewood replaced Carew just after an hour and within a few minutes Ash & Stan got a rest – Bannan & Osbourne their replacements.
Again, Malaga probably created the “better chances”, what there were of them. It looked like a mistake could easily settle this, and so it proved.
In fairness to Lichaj, it was a sweet, sweet cross field ball, but he misjudged his header and his opposite number’s first touch was equally nice. He was away and clear before the young American could even turn around. Brad Friedel dived for the low, driven cross in the box and palmed it right into the path of a grateful Malaga player who couldn’t miss.
Looking around the pitch at that point I couldn’t see where a goal could come from. It finished 1-0.
I’m going to leave it there. There’s plenty more that can be said, maybe I’ll revisit the game later.