Not since 2003 have Spain been able to boast three representatives in the quarterfinal stages of the Champions League—Real Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia.
Wednesday night, 10 years later, Malaga's remarkable journey in the competition progressed to that stage—joining Madrid and Barca—with a 2-0 win against FC Porto.
The three La Liga sides will be joined in the last eight by two German teams, one Italian, one French and one Turkish.
2003 - the last time La Liga had three sides in #UCL quarterfinals. Tonight, Malaga follow Real Madrid and Barcelona into that stage.— futbolgrande (@futboIgrande) March 13, 2013
It was a night that always promised to dazzle in Andalusia. There was a fantastic atmosphere inside La Rosaleda and there was a stellar cast there to will them on—it would have been rude not to indulge them.
Golfer Miguel Angel Jimenez was joined by actor Antonio Banderas in attendance. The latter, complete with Malaga scarf was interviewed by Canal Plus at halftime: "This is the most important Malaga game in my lifetime. We can dream."
Tonight they can dream a little bigger.
It was not just their golden boy, but Europe's too, who brightened up what was developing into a frustrating spectacle.
Isco was allowed too much time to turn just outside the area on the stroke of halftime, edge towards the box and unleash an effort which flew into the top corner.
The 20-year-old has been involved in five of Malaga's goals in Europe this season—scoring three and assisting two. If anyone was going to get the party started, it had to be him.
In the second half, Jackson Martinez was presented with a great chance from James Rodriguez's wonderfully delivered free kick, but his touch dropped wide of Willy Caballero's goal, and seconds later it was 2-0.
Roque Santa Cruz had barely been on the pitch and was yet to touch the ball when he scored with a glancing header that turned out to be the winner.
Porto twice had goals ruled out for offside as a nervy end ensued for Malaga and their celebrity fans, but it was apt that the winner came from a substitute. Manuel Pellegrini's teams have rarely been about individuals.
The manager has previous success in the competition too, as he led Villarreal to the semifinals while he was at the helm in 2006.
On Wednesday night he could rely not just on the old and young combination of Isco and Joaquin—who is enjoying quite the Indian summer—but also telling contributions from Jeremy Toulalan, Martin Demichelis, Weligton and others.
Thanks for all the messages. What a great night. People in the bars are staring at the tv screens checking whether this just really happened— Christian Machowski (@ChristianMcr) March 13, 2013
Off-field problems may still hang in the air at La Rosaleda, but the Champions League is giving them a reason to remain upbeat.
They will party into the Thursday morning and then, together with Antonio Banderas, they will go to sleep with a reason to dream.