Feb 2 (Reuters) - Valencia suffered a blow to their Champions League qualifying hopes after a flicked header from Samu Castillejo gave Malaga a 1-0 home win in La Liga on Monday.
Valencia have reinforced well with the money spent by billionaire owner Peter Lim and while that has brought notable results at home, including recent wins over Real Madrid and Sevilla, they have dropped important points away.
They are fifth in the standings on 41 points while Malaga are two places behind on 35 points.
Real Madrid lead the way with 51 points following the weekend matches, a point ahead of Barcelona, and play their game in hand at home to Sevilla on Wednesday.
Valencia were fragile defensively as they allowed Castillejo a free header to put Malaga ahead from a Samuel Garcia cross midway through the first half.
Malaga had greater rhythm to their game in midfield and Juanmi went close with a couple of strikes before the break.
Valencia fullback Joao Cancelo showed his inexperience when he was dismissed for a second yellow card after 74 minutes for a foul on Ignacio Camacho.
Malaga then came within inches of extending their lead with a Nordin Amrabat 20-metre shot that came back off a post.
"The team worked hard and it was a deserved win," Malaga striker Javi Guerra told reporters.
"We will keep battling and looking to improve."
Valencia fullback Jose Gaya said they need to perform better away from the Mestalla.
"We have a problem away from home as we are not playing well. We have been working hard to try and improve this," Gaya told reporters.
"The goal was a big blow for us and we were not able to bounce back." (Editing by Ken Ferris)