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Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Malaga turn attention to topping group

Dermot Corrigan, Spain Correspondent

Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini said his side were far from satisfied yet after Tuesday's 1-1 Champions League Group C draw at Milan secured qualification for the last 16 of the competition.

Eliseu shot Malaga ahead in the first half, and although Alexandre Pato headed a second-half equaliser for Milan, the point was enough to see the Andalucians progress to the knockout stage with two games still to play.

The Chilean coach, who brought another unsung Spanish side, Villarreal, to the semi-finals in 2006, said he and his team were looking to go as far as they could in the competition.

"When you set an objective and achieve it you should not stop," Pellegrini said. "Now we are going to try to reach the quarter-finals. We want to go as far as our football allows. Whoever we meet in the last 16 will have to prove they are better than us. History or past trophies do not count."

Few in Spain, or elsewhere, expected Malaga to perform so well on their first Champions League appearance, particularly given the financial issues which continue to dog the club, but Pellegrini said his team had shown they had the mental strength required to compete at this level.

"We have achieved our target after four rounds in a group where some people described us as nothing more than also-rans," he said. "This achievement means people are not thinking about the other issues. We have qualified in a difficult stadium after a difficult match. The praise should be reserved for the players as they execute our style of play. This team has a winning mentality."

Boquerones playmaker Isco, who again sparkled and laid on his side's goal with a superb run and pass, said he was happy with his own contribution and that Malaga had deserved to progress.

"It was a good draw because it means qualification for us, so we are all very happy," he said. "I am very happy with my assist  I managed to pick out Eliseu's run and he was good enough to supply the final touch. We are glad to have earned a point in a stadium like San Siro. Qualification was well deserved but now we have to keep working hard."

The reported 20 million target for Tottenham, Manchester City and Barcelona, still just 20, echoed his coach's claims that Malaga were not going to now rest having achieved their first objective.

"We have done well in this competition, we were impressive in all four games we have played," he said. "It is difficult to say how far we can go, but we are taking it step by step and we have nothing to lose. We will see what happens. It is important to finish first in the group. We will try to win the next game (away at bottom club Zenit St Petersburg) to do that."

Malaga's players also called on the club's Qatari owner Abdullah Al-Thani to match their commitment and pay the 10 million in back-wages which are reportedly owed to squad members.

"On the pitch we all gave everything," said right-back Jesus Gamez. "That way we sent a message to the owners of the club."

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