A late goal from substitute Roque Santa Cruz kept Malaga’s Champions League adventure going into the quarterfinal stage as they beat Porto 2-0 at the La Rosaleda to give them a 2-1 aggregate win.
Porto were favorites to progress having scored without reply in Portugal three weeks ago, but Isco’s sublime strike late in the first half pulled Malaga level. The momentum swung further in the home side’s favor just minutes after the break when Steven Defour was shown a second yellow card to leave Porto a man down.
And with his first touch after coming off the bench, Santa Cruz, still on-loan from Manchester City, headed Malaga into the last eight. It is a remarkable achievement for a club playing in the Champions League for the first time and whose season has been beset by financial turmoil. Such is their predicament that they are currently banned from European competition next season for outstanding debts.
Few people in Malaga will be caring about that right now.
It had been a contentious opening in the early stages with several robust challenges punished by a rush of yellow cards.
Malaga had plenty of justification to be aggrieved at the referee five minutes before the break as Javier Saviola had a goal ruled out. Julio Baptista was adjudged to have impeded Porto goalkeeper Helton as he came out to claim a cross, before it fell to Saviola to put into the empty net. Replays appeared to show that the Brazilian had been pushed from behind.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side did not let the disappointment get to them and three minutes later the tie was all square.
Isco came up with a lovely touch after a pass from Manuel Iturra and, with, Porto players inexcusably failing to close him down, he placed a shot into the top corner from the edge of the box with a fine strike.
Malaga received a further boost in front of an impassioned support when Defour was given a second caution for a stupid and blatant trip on Joaquin.
Saviola came close to getting a decisive goal as his shot was blocked in front of goal, while Jackson Martinez could have put Porto back in front as he stretched to get on the end of a free-kick.
Santa Cruz was the hero, though, as he rose highest six yards from goal and powered Isco’s out-swinging corner into the net.
With a minute remaining Porto briefly thought they had got a goal to take them through, but, despite getting the ball in the net, Martinez was correctly adjudged to have been offside.