Perth Glory will take plenty of positives out of an entertaining and spirited 1-1 draw with high-profile Spanish club Malaga CF in a match that was friendly in name only at nib Stadium today.
Players from both sides got under their opponents’ skin in a competitive affair, played out in front of 7883 fans.
Malaga, backing up after thrashing Adelaide United 5-1 on Friday night, opened the scoring through rising star Ricardo Horta in the first half before new signing Andy Keogh leveled for Glory after the break.
Glory goalkeeper Danny Vukovic denied Malaga a second goal with several fine saves and the home side had chances to break the deadlock at the other end.
But they couldn’t pinch what would have been a surprise victory over their better-credentialed opponents.
Glory coach Kenny Lowe fielded five of his eight new recruits in the starting line-up – Youssouf Hersi, Richard Garcia, Andy Keogh, Mitch Nichols and Diogo Ferreira – and was encouraged by the team’s performance.
“I thought we looked very dangerous on the counter especially and defensively we looked really solid and compact,” Lowe said.
“We’ve been working hard over the pre-season and it’s nice to see a lot of things coming to fruition.
“It’s a work in progress, but it’s encouraging.”
Horta was lively and went within a whisker of opening the scoring in the 26th minute when he cut inside Risdon on the left and curled a low shot around Vukovic that struck the post.
Moments later Vukovic was called into action again and made a good reflex save to deny Roque Santa Cruz, who headed a corner towards goal from close range.
Horta didn’t have to wait too much longer for his goal, putting the visitors ahead in the 31st minute.
The Portuguese under-21 international curled a sublime right-foot shot into the top-right corner of the goal from the edge of the penalty area.
Santa Cruz was put through on goal by on-loan Liverpool forward Luis Alberto moments before half-time but was again denied by the sharp Vukvoic, who reacted well to block the striker’s right-foot shot.
Glory drew level in the 57th minute when Keogh found space in the middle of a static Malaga defence, latching onto a flick-on from Brandon O’Neill before calmly beating substitute goalkeeper Agustin Cousillas.
It was Keogh’s second goal in three pre-season appearances for Glory since joining the WA club from English Championship outfit Millwall.
Both sides had chances in the final half-hour but neither could find a winner.
The fixture provided Glory with a perfect test before their first competitive match of the 2014-15 season, a first-round FFA Cup tie away to Newcastle Jets on August 5.
“I would love to play against sides like that every week,” Lowe said.
“It was a proper football match. If we pressed them, they would have carved us up with their quality, but we were compact.
“We made a game of it. Fair play to us, we did quite well.”
Malaga coach Javi Garcia said his side’s two-match tour of Australia – part of the second annual World Challenge tour to promote Spanish soccer and increase the global popularity of La Liga – had been a success.
“It was a positive experience for us,” Garcia said through a translator.
“We have competed in two good matches here in Australia against Adelaide United and Perth Glory.
“It’s a good level of football here. The teams try to play good football by passing and keeping the ball and the A-League is growing up.”
Malaga will return home to Spain next week to prepare for the 2014-15 La Liga season, which kicks off on August 24.