Real Betis have secured their spot in Europe for next season after coming from behind to beat Malaga 2-1 through a beautiful Fabián goal.
The Sevillian side needed all three points in this small Andalusian derby to make sure they would qualify for at least Europa League football next season. Málaga had been plagued by injuries all season but saw Uruguay international Diego Rolan come back into the side.
Betis were without their two main pillars in defence, as Marc Bartra was suspended and both of the first team’s goalkeepers were still out injured.
Still, the sell-out crowd at the Benito Villamarin saw their team take initiative from the start of the game, looking for goals from the start. They came very close too, as former Middlesbrough right-back Antonio Barragán burst forward and unleashed a shot that rattled the crossbar just a few minutes into the match.
However, it was Malaga who struck first after some a-typical sloppy defending from the home team. Watford loanee Isaac Success unlocked the defence with a simple through pass to Yussef En-Nesyri, and the Egypt international convincingly bent it around Pedro Lopez. Betis manager Quique Setien, seen by many as the manager of the year of La Liga, immediately ran out of the dugout and started to bark orders at his players.
He knew that his players needed some support, which is why he turned to the fans and gestured them to get behind their team, which is something you don’t need to ask the Villamarin twice. It paid dividends.
Only five minutes after going down, Malaga captain Roberto Rosales took a very bad touch inside his own box, and Riza Durmisi was there to pounce. The Danish left-back stole the ball and slotted it past Roberto on his weaker right foot, equalizing the game and giving the momentum of the game back to Betis.
’34 | A stray cat just invaded the pitch – didn’t manage to take a picture though 1-1 #RealBetisMalaga
— Nicolás Quarles vU (@Nico_QvU) 30 April 2018
For the next 50 minutes, however, Betis struggled to break down Malaga. The relegated team showed resilience in defence as well as some dangerous flashes going forward, with Isaac Success looking dangerous in particular.
It took a moment of individual brilliance to set these teams apart. Fabián, who had been subpar for the most part of the game, collected the ball 25 yards out, took a few touches to create space between defenders, and fired a curling effort into the side-netting.
72′ ⏱⚽️ GOAL! 👏 @FabianRP52 with a superb effort!
— Real Betis Balompié (@RealBetis_en) 30 April 2018
Betis took the lead and saw the rest of the game out, meaning that they’ll be back in Europe after five years of absence (and four years after going down).
For Malaga, this changes nothing, as they’ve already been relegated, meaning the players are only really playing to get a move elsewhere in the summer.
Betis are still mathematically in contention for fourth place and Champions League qualification, but it will take a very unlikely eight-point swing in three matches for them to leapfrog Valencia.