VILLARREAL, December 19 (Primera Liga) - Juan Roman Riquelme was the star man for Villarreal as they cruised to a convincing home win over hapless Malaga.
The Argentine midfielder scored one and had a hand in the other two goals as the hosts strolled to a 3-0 triumph to record successive league wins for the first time this season.
They dominated possession throughout, their fantastic build-up play creating a number of chances, with a combination of poor finishing and the goalkeeping skills of Malaga's Juan Calatayud restricting them to just a single Juan Manuel Pena goal in the first half.
But after the interval, Riquelme and substitute Diego Forlan sealed the victory and put the pressure back on Malaga after last week's 1-0 win over Levante.
Antonio Guayre and Luciano Figueroa were chosen to lead the Villarreal attack and almost combined in the fourth minute but Guayre's diagonal pass was just too long for his strike partner.
Two minutes later, Figueroa left Fernando Sanz trailing with an amazing burst of pace, but just as he was about to pull the trigger, midfielder Garcia Gerado got back to make a last-ditch challenge.
A Gonzalo Rodriguez long-ball was then misjudged by Malaga's defence in the 27th minute. Guayre raced to the ball before the oncoming keeper and tried to slot his shot wide of Catalayud but he somehow managed to palm the ball wide.
Malaga's Fernando Sanz headed a Guayre cross clear a minute later but Calatayud needed to produce another fine save as the ball only went as far as Gonzalez Santi Cazorla, whose first-time volley was met with an acrobatic save.
Juan Jesus Juanito was next to save Malaga as his challenge prevented Guayre and Figueroa from combining, while referee Dauden Ibanez was also to the visitors' aid when he judged that a handball by Patricio Edgar was outside, not inside the area.
But Malaga could not hold the hosts out and from Riquelme's floated free-kick, Pena made a powerful run to head in at the far post for his first Primera Liga goal in over 200 games.
In the 65th minute, Riquelme supplied the overlapping Guayre on the right and defender Juanito stuck a leg out to block his cross but it took a dangerous bounce and ricocheted off his leg, going inches over his own crossbar. But seconds later Riquelme surprised a flatfooted Calatayud with a powerful shot from just outside the area to make it two.
More trickery from Riquelme sent the defence the wrong way and played in Figueroa but the Argentina international was again denied by a desperate tackle, this time from Fernando Sanz.
It was then Rodolfo Arruabarrena who linked up with Riquelme in the 83rd minute to create Forlan's second goal in two games. Riquelme created space on the left, passing to Arruabarrena on the overlap, and his teasing cross was smashed home by Forlan for his sixth league goal of the season.