BARCELONA, Spain - Malaga strengthened its hold on fourth place in the Spanish league with a convincing 2-0 win at Sevilla in Saturday's Andalusian derby based on yet another impressive defensive performance away from home.
Manuel Pellegrini's Malaga kept its fifth clean sheet through eight road games this season as it climbed to within four points of Real Madrid before the defending champions host Espanyol on Sunday.
After withstanding Sevilla's early push at Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, Malaga went ahead for good four minutes after halftime when defender Martin Demichelis rose above his marker at the far post to head home Joaquin Sanchez's well-placed corner kick.
Joaquin then earned a penalty kick that Eliseu Pereira drove in to seal the victory in the 70th after Sevilla's Federico Fazio was red-carded for bringing him down with only the goalkeeper to beat.
The two goals were just Malaga's fourth and fifth scored away from home this season. But the Costa del Sol side also remained the best defensive team in Spain on the road with only three goals conceded.
"It's an important win against a direct rival," said Pellegrini. "A match can swing on two or three balls. Sevilla didn't take their chances in the first 15 minutes, and afterward it's to the credit of my team that it could change the dynamic of the game."
Sevilla's erratic season continued as it followed up its 5-0 thrashing of Mallorca in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday with another sub-par showing. Michel Gonzalez's team fell to 12th with only one win in the last eight rounds.
Also on Saturday, Athletic Bilbao won 1-0 at Mallorca, Getafe drew 1-1 with visiting Osasuna, and Real Sociedad drew 0-0 at Granada.
Bilbao rebounded from its embarrassing elimination midweek to a third-tier side in the Copa by edging out Mallorca thanks to Aritz Aduriz's early goal.
Aduriz scored his team-high 10th league goal of the season in the 11th minute, perfectly targeting his header to send Andoni Iraola's long cross past goalkeeper Dudu Aouate.
The striker trails only Barcelona's Lionel Messi, Atletico Madrid's Radamel Falcao and Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo as the league's top scorers.
Mallorca, coached by former Bilbao manager Joaquin Caparros, reacted well but failed to beat inspired goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz, who made five quality saves to deny forward Giovani Dos Santos and striker Tomer Hemed before halftime.
And after Victor Casadesus missed the open net from inside the area in the 53rd, Mallorca visibly wilted as its winless streak reached 11 rounds.
"We needed this win," said Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa. He added, however, that his team was still not playing well. "It's tough for me to say this, but I can't call the victory a fair one. We can't ignore all the chances that Mallorca was able to create."
Bilbao, which rose to 11th place, was ousted from the Copa on Wednesday by fellow Basque club Eibar. It also failed to make it out of the group phase of the Europa League. Last season, Bilbao reached the final in both cup competitions.
Mallorca's Caparros is one of several coaches in Spain under increasing pressure to stop his team's slide down the standings.
Granada's draw with Sociedad pushed Mallorca into the relegation zone. Mallorca is also on the verge of exiting the Copa after being trounced by Sevilla.
"Turning this around is a challenge. I am not giving up," Caparros said. "I know I have the backing off the club's board and of my players, and that I owe it to our fans."
Getafe forward Diego Castro converted a penalty kick in injury time to split the points with 10-man Osasuna.
Castro scored three minutes into injury time after Oier Sanjurjo was harshly ruled to have handled in the area. Television replays showed that the ball hit the Osasuna player's back when he slid to intercept a pass.
"I don't think even the (referee and line judge) were sure. They took a long time to rule it a penalty, and that makes you wonder," Osasuna coach Jose Mendilibar said. "It's normal that my players are so angry about such a huge mistake."
Osasuna had gone in front in the 84th minute through striker Kike Sola's individual effort after the visitors were reduced to 10 men in the 77th when Emiliano Armenteros was shown a red card for a rough tackle on Juan Valera.
Getafe remained unbeaten in five games and stayed in seventh place, just in front of Sociedad.
Osasuna, meanwhile, continued to improve with only one loss in six rounds.
League leader Barcelona hosts second-place Atletico on Sunday, when Valencia hosts Rayo Vallecano, and Levante is at Real Zaragoza.
On Monday, Real Betis hosts Celta Vigo, and Valladolid visits Deportivo La Coruna.
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