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By Mark Elkington
MADRID, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Malaga's forwards have their defence to thank for giving them a chance to redeem themselves against Porto and for keeping alive their Champions League quarter-final hopes.
Competition debutants Malaga have been one of the surprise teams this season, their attractive brand of possession football winning widespread praise, but they ran into a wall in Porto and lost Tuesday's last-16 first leg 1-0.
Double European Cup winners Porto starved the visitors of the ball and Joao Moutinho scored the only goal, albeit from an offside position, to give the Portuguese side a narrow advantage for the second leg on March 13.
"We played one of our worst games of the season in attack," Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini told a post-match news conference, after his side failed to register a shot on target.
"But taking into account how the game progressed, with all the possession they had, Porto didn't do us too much damage.
"We hope that in a more normal game, where we see more of the ball, we will turn this around."
Malaga, who are fourth in La Liga, have the Spanish league's tightest defence and, in Willy Caballero, one of the most in-form goalkeepers.
However, it is in midfield and up front that Malaga have usually caught the eye, with the ball-playing talents of Spanish under-21 international Isco standing out.
Freeing the playmaker from the straightjacket Porto managed to keep him in on Tuesday will be key to their hopes of overturning the result in the second leg.
"Considering what happened, the best thing about the game was the result," Isco told reporters.
"At 1-0 I think we are capable of turning the tie around at the Rosaleda.
"They played a very tough game, very tactical, and they barely let us breathe. They didn't give us a minute to play our football. We couldn't find the space, but 90 minutes are very long and we can turn this round."
Malaga's experienced midfielder Julio Baptista, an influential figure in the dressing-room after spells at Real Madrid, Arsenal and AS Roma, said: "We let Porto play and didn't manage to play ourselves.
"They were better than us but the knockout rounds aren't settled in 90 minutes," added the Brazil international, back after almost a year out with injury. "Nothing is decided yet and we still have the return match. We certainly have to be a lot better then we were today." (Editing by Clare Fallon)