Real Mallorca lost a game of high quality in controversial circumstances, and their seven-game unbeaten run, going down 2-1 to Malaga in front of almost 10,000 on Saturday night. Football is often described as being a cruel game and so it proved when we were robbed of at least a point by two glaring errors from Basque referee Gorostegui Fernandez. His first howler came on seven minutes with both teams going at it hammer and tongs. Good work down the right by Fran Gamez saw Raillo head in a beauty, which was chalked off for alleged offside. There was absolutely no way offside came into the equation and the goal was totally legitimate. The stand-side baldy linesman was given pelters by irate fans after that incident. If VAR (video assistant referee) had been in place instead of next season that goal would have counted.
The visitors looked dangerous at set pieces with our keeper Miquel Parera called into action twice in the first 15 minutes. Mallorca let at least two chances go begging, and against opposition like Malaga even a half chance has to be scored. We paid the consequences just before half time with Parera at fault. He chose to punch out a corner kick, the ball bouncing down off the crossbar, with Scottish player (born in Fuengirola) Jack Harper first to react totally against the run of play.
All the talk at half time was about our disallowed goal and how we didn’t deserve to be behind. After the interval, Mallorca came out firing on all cylinders but by now Malaga had built a two-line defensive wall. In the 71st minute we were deservedly back on level terms. Lago Junior did the razzle-dazzle down the left, found his way blocked by two defenders, then hit a long pass to Gamez down the right. He cut inside, squared to Lopez and his deflected shot went in. The Son Moix erupted.
Malaga then found another gear as our rearguard needed oodles and oodles of doggedness to keep them out. The visitors brought on box of tricks Ontiveros upfront, who was another class player for us to contend with. Then came another highly controversial game-changing incident. Baba, Raillo and Harper all went up for a header and Baba's head connected with Harper's. Both pole-axed players hit the turf and didn’t move. Nowadays with head injuries the referee is supposed to stop the game immediately and signal for attention. Instead, he waved play on with our players rooted to the spot, expecting a stoppage. Malaga broke up field and Cifuentes scored with ease.
Then all hell broke loose, our normally calm coach, Vicente Moreno, lost it and was incandescent with rage. Giving the fourth official an ear-bashing, he was sent off (and is likely to face a two-match suspension), as was physio Magi Vicens. A crescendo of “fuera, fuera” echoed round the Son Moix as Malaga’s defence booted the ball anywhere in an effort to time waste.
Towards the end, Abdon Prats had a couple of efforts that came close but time ran out. As the players left the pitch, exhausted and frustrated after a monumental effort, every man, woman and child in the Son Moix was on their feet shouting “Mallorca, Mallorca” and clapping in what was a wonderful show of support for the team. I’ve nnot seen a reception like that at the Son Moix since 2001. Vicente Moreno has this group of players at the top of their game at the moment as we head off to a difficult location, El Molinon in Gijon next Saturday.
Meanwhile, Cadiz beat Rayo Majadahonda 1-0 to leapfrog us and take sixth place. After 17 games only eight points separate the top eight sides. January for Mallorca becomes an important month with three away games and one in Palma. Still a very long way to go but the promotion pot is beginning to simmer.