Ultra-defensive Real Mallorca hung on grimly to salvage a lucky point, 1-1, at the Juegos Mediterraneos stadium on Sunday night against Almeria. This game was grim viewing for Mallorca supporters as coach Fernando Vazquez set up his side not to lose. Almeria will be disappointed that they didn’t pick up all three points as they won the possession stats 67-33 and had six corners to our none. They missed a load of chances and the longer the game went on, you could see why both these sides have scored so few goals between them. Unbelievably, Mallorca had one shot on target in the 91st minute.
Both teams started the 2015/16 campaign with high hopes of promotion but now find themselves in the lower echelons of the Spanish second division. La Segunda standard is pretty poor but this was a shocking 93 minutes of football played out by two sides who looked in dire straits although, to be fair, Almeria did try to score goals.
The home side almost went ahead in the 14th minute, Macedo broke into the area and only the left leg of Mallorca keeper Jesus Cabrero kept the ball out. Time and time again Almeria pushed forward and looked odds-on to score but somehow the Mallorca defence, by now with six across the back, just about stood firm. In the 21st minute there was excitement for Real Mallorca fans in my local bar, some of whom had dozed off after a heavy lunch: the Almeria goalkeeper touched the ball, albeit from a back pass. A minute later the islanders had the first of many miraculous escapes as a half-hit Lolo Reyes shot somehow trickled just past the post.
Things then began to get a bit fiesty as Mallorca tried to pass the ball around like a hot potato. Yuste was given his customary yellow card, then five minutes later was lucky not to see red after another indiscretion. Somehow Mallorca hung on until half time but the omens didn’t look good for the second half.
After the break Almeria forced an early corner which Mallorca managed to hack away to safety into the desert behind the main stand. The longer the second period continued, the more it looked like Almeria must surely hit the target.
Our two full backs Oriol and Company had nightmares against speedy attackers but it was the former who had a part to play in our opener. The only way we looked like scoring was from a set piece and so it came to pass. Oriol lofted a free kick into the Almeria area and 6ft 4in Yuste back-headed the ball past a helpless Casto.
Totally against the run of play a miracle had happened, Mallorca had nicked a goal and Almeria’s ground was hushed – but not for long. The home side scored a bizarre equaliser. Mallorca substitute Campabadal was booked for a foul he didn’t commit as Uche dived in the area. The referee gave a direct free kick on the edge of the D. Twice the ball ricocheted off the wall but from the third rebound, Jose Angel managed to find a gap to draw Almeria level 1-1 in the 82nd minute.
Now it was panic stations for Mallorca, they simply could not afford to lose as we now had a line of eight defenders trying to hold on for a point, which we did. Just.
Real Mallorca slumbered to a 1-1 stalemate and were really fortunate to come away from Almeria on Sunday night with a point which they didn’t deserve. Knowing both Huesca and Ponferradina had lost on Saturday night gave us a golden chance to open up a gap. We looked totally ragged during the 90 minutes and will have to improve hugely on Saturday at home to league leaders Leganes from Madrid. They’ve scored 42 goals so far this season so we mustn’t sit back and defend. On present form it looks like Mallorca will be hard pushed to get anything out of this game.
Only goalkeeper Jesus Cabrero can come out of Sunday’s game with any credit, but more worrying for us is the alarming dip in form of Lago Junior. He started off in January looking really sharp but now, like a lot of other Mallorca players, doesn’t seem remotely interested in putting up a fight. Another terrible stat from this game – we gave away possession 75 times.
After the game, coach Vazquez was upbeat. “A point is good for us in a game Almeria dominated and should have won. It’s important we’ve now got a better goal average (head to head) over them. The image we showed tonight isn’t important – a point is. My only concern is keeping this team in the second division.” Asked why he didn’t bring on Michael Pereira at some stage, Vazquez said: “He left his protective mask in Palma and we didn’t want to risk him after his broken cheekbone.”
It’s almost as we were, down the bottom of the table, but Mallorca have now moved up one place in the classifications level with Ponferradina on 35 points, two ahead of Huesca and three in front of Almeria. It’s going to be a tight finish. It’s reckoned we need 15 points from our remaining eleven games to be sure of staying in the division. Depressing times at Son Moix.