Malaga president Abdullah Al Thani in bizarre allegations of racism

“No one knows what to say in the loser’s locker room.”

So goes the quote frequently attributed to Muhammad Ali, and yet paranoid and unfounded allegations of racism are not something one would assume would console the losers of a fiercely contested Champions League quarter final.

Gutsy and resillient throughout, this Malaga team have much to be proud of and yet will feel crushed by the cruel blow dealt with typical swiftness by a talented Borussia Dortmund side. During the first leg at La Rosaleda, Malaga CF weathered the Borrussia swarm admirably in a gritty, tactical and, it must be said, fortuitous 0-0 draw, and travelled to Dortmund knowing that having kept a clean sheet against the odds, any goal scored would tip the tie greatly in their favour, thanks to the away goals rule.

In the first leg, Malaga lived dangerously with a high defensive line and rode their luck as Dortmund spurned numerous chances. The second leg was a much more balanced tie and it looked until the very end as if Malaga would pull off an unlikely and historic victory.

The match

Julio Baptista wins the ball in midfield to setup up Malaga's first goal

Baptista finds himself with space to stretch the Dortmund defence

Malaga looked much more comfortable both with and without possession and when Neven Subotić came out of line to challenge Júlio Baptista for an aerial ball, Malaga had their chance. Baptista’s victory in the aerial battle left Dortmund with a defensive line of only three against a rapidly advancing front three of Baptista, Isco and Joaquín. Baptista chipped a pass to Joaquín who played a one-two with Isco before selling the panicking Dortmund defenders a dummy and pivoting to strike a shot into the bottom corner. Malaga had shocked the odds and the congregation at the Westfalenstadion.

Mario Gotze breaks forward for Dortmund

Gotze breaks forward for Dortmund’s first goal

It was a similar defensive imbalance that lead to Dortmund to level the score in the 40th minute. Malaga’s Portugese loan left-back Vitorino Antunes lost the ball after going forward up the left flank. Joaquín and Toulalan moved quickly to attempt to intercept but a series of quick passes between Błaszczykowski, Mario Götze and Piszczek left Götze sprinting into Malaga’s half with a stretched, retreating Malaga back three trying to handle the runs of Lewandowski and Reus. Götze spread a pass to Reus who backheeled to Lewandowski and the big Polish forward rounded Willy Caballero to level the score.

Eliseu scores for Malaga against Dortmund

Eliseu can be seen to be offside for Malaga’s second goal, although Baptista’s shot looked to be going in

The scores remained level until the 82nd minute when, despite sustained pressure from the Germans, it was Malaga who scored the goal that looked as if it would send them through to their first ever Champions League semi-final. Antunes redeemed his earlier mistake by retaining the ball under pressure from three Dortmund midfielders and passing to Joaquín in space, who exchanged passes with Isco before Isco threaded in Baptista. Baptista angled a low shot / cross to Eliseu who side-footed into an open net. Malaga’s second goal started a string of bizarre decisions from the Scottish officials that lead to later outrage from Malaga, but here it was Dortmund who had grounds for complaint.

Malaga sitting very deep before Dortmund's second goal

Malaga sitting very deep before Dortmund’s second goal

Malaga had once again rocked Dortmund and with Dortmund needing two goals, needed to see out only a further 8 minutes plus stoppage time to progress.

It was here that the balance of the match changed, however, with Malaga sitting deep as Dortmund, with nothing left to lose, launched attack after attack on the Malaga goal.

The Malaga fans were celebrating, but with Malaga failing to keep possession once they had won it, you could sense danger. Still, they made it to the end of the 90 minutes still leading and it was not until the 91st minute that Dortmund struck – a long ball clearing Malaga’s defence to find Subotic, who cut a ball in the box which Malaga failed to clear, allowing Sven Bender to slot home.

cross into the box, with four Dortmund players in offside positions

Lewandowski’s cross into the box, with four Dortmund players in offside positions

As it stood, Malaga were still through, but faced two further minutes of German onslaught. Malaga have significant grievance with the way that Dortmund won the match in the 93rd minute. Robert Lewandowski received a throw-in from Marcel Schmelzer and launched a cross into the box.

Julian Schieber, one of four Dortmund players standing in an offside position when the cross was played, chested the ball down to Marco Reus, who cut across to Felipe Santana. Santana played a shot against Antunes which Antunes was unable to clear from danger.

Santana pokes home but it offside

Santana pokes home but is offside

The ball fell to Schieber, who poked the ball forward to Santana, who was once more in an offside position and poked home on the line.

Neither offside infringement was called by the officials and the Dortmund fans and players were left to celebrate the most rapid and unbelievable of comebacks, with Malaga suffering the cruellest of blows.

Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani’s bizarre post match comments

You might say that the missed offside calls for Malaga’s second goal and Dortmund’s third had evened themselves out on the night. Many within the Malaga ranks were left feeling a very real sense of injustice however, with club CEO Vicente Casado telling reporters :

“We are outraged because we are again the victim of injustice. We will file an official complaint to Uefa over the referee, It’s a shame that in the quarter-finals of the Champions League the referee is not of the level that the players and the fans deserve, both from Malaga and Borussia Dortmund. Our complaint will be aimed at the referees rather than at UEFA. The Champions League is an elite competition and the people in it should be elite level, too.”

Malaga’s forward Joaquín went further, saying :

“We suspect Michel Platini and everybody else at UEFA wanted us out. It’s much easier to do this to Malaga than to Real Madrid. This only happens to small clubs like Malaga.”

But of all the comments, club owner and president Abdullah Al Thani’s are the most outlandish. Posting on his twitter account after the match, the Sheikh said :

Al-Thani has frequently spoken of perceived injustice against his Malaga team who are facing Champions League suspension from UEFA for next season due to unpaid debts (for more, see our recent articles on the Sheikh; Trust takes more than a blank Sheikh and Pellegrini’s Super Malaga and the Sheikh), but in his post-match tweets Al-Thani has crossed a line of decency.

It is not easy to be noble and dignified in defeat, but last night the travelling Malaga fans managed something their club president could not. Allegations of racism are a serious matter and, if the Sheikh wants to sound off on his twitter account after a disappointing defeat he would be well served to do so without alleging racism without strong evidence.
What’s more, presumably after a difficult night’s sleep, but nevertheless having had time to cool down and reflect, Al Thani continued his complaints this morning :

The fans of Dortmund and Malaga alike created a great atmosphere at both matches of the quarter final and mingled together in a friendly manner and with respect. Malaga’s playing staff will be left to attempt to re-group for the rest of the season, where they will hope to use the spirit that helped them perform so admirably in the Champions League to gain a fourth placed finish and Champions League spot in La Liga. If attaining a fourth placed finish will get them Champions League football remains to be seen, with a CAS appeal pending.

As for their president the Sheikh, one hopes that one of the advisers in his “locker room” will find the words to make him see sense.

Founder of Proven Quality and a network of Football news aggregator sites, John lives in Spain, and has also lived in France, Germany and the UK. John can be found tweeting under the provenquality handle.
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