Malaga remained third in Spain’s Primera Division after drawing 0-0 at struggling Espanyol on Saturday, while Salva Sevilla’s early goal gave Real Betis a 1-0 home win over Valencia.
Malaga outplayed Espanyol in the first half, with defender Martin Demichelis coming close with a pair of headers at Cornella-El Prat Stadium.
Lowly Espanyol rarely bothered Malaga’s defence, which remained the best in the league with only five goals conceded in nine games. Nor have Malaga allowed a goal in five Champions League matches.
Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini rested several players after the midweek over AC Milan in the Champions League.
“We didn’t come here to take away a draw, but you can’t win every time,” said Pellegrini.
“It was a tightly contested match and Espanyol deserves the point for all their hard work.”
In Seville, Betis midfielder Sevilla drove his volley past goalkeeper Diego Alves, who got a hand to the ball but not enough to keep it out, to score what proved to be the winner in the ninth minute.
Valencia mustered a better effort in the second half but was stymied by goalkeeper Adrian Castillo, who capped a strong performance with a save of Roberto Soldado’s strike three minutes from time.
Betis’ fourth win of the season lifted them provisionally into fourth place, trailing Malaga by two points. Real Madrid and Sevilla are both two points behind Betis heading into their games on Sunday.
Valencia’s away troubles deepened with their fourth consecutive defeat away from Mestalla Stadium.
Also, Celta Vigo held on with 10 men for nearly 40 minutes to earn a 1-1 home draw with Deportivo La Coruna in a regional Galicia derby in north-eastern Spain.
On Sunday, Atletico Madrid, joint-top with Barcelona, host last-place Osasuna on Sunday before Madrid visit Mallorca.