Malaga finally returned to winning ways in la Liga with Juanpi’s first-half strike securing a narrow 1-0 victory over strugglers Sporting Gijon at La Rosaleda on Friday night.
Javi Gracia’s side had failed to win their last five league encounters, but Juanpi’s 25th-minute goal kept their faint European hopes alive as they moved up to eighth place ahead of the weekend fixtures.
Rojiblancos, meanwhile, remain entrenched in the relegation zone after a fourth straight loss left them two points adrift of safety in 19th spot.
The visitors almost got off to a flying start when Antonio Sanabria was presented with a chance in the opening minute from a tight angle on the left, but Los Boquerones goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa did well to keep the ball out.
But it was the home team who drew first blood, with Juanpi collecting the ball 20 yards out before cutting back to his left and beating Ivan Cuellar with a curling effort.
The Asturias outfit had their chances to equalise, but Ochoa was in fine form, denying Sanabria in the second half after he got on the end of Alberto Lora’s cross.
They also saw appeals for a penalty turned down at the death when Pablo Perez’s cross appeared to strike Pablo Fornals on the arm, but Malaga held on for only their third league victory of 2016.