After a week when I’ve been catching up on the latest Peaky Blinders – Mad Jimmy from the Glasgow gang “The Billy Boys” has to have the dodgiest regional accent since Dick van Dyke played Bert the chimney sweep in Mary Poppins! – Real Mallorca were held to a nail-biting and very exciting 0-0 draw on Friday night against second top Athletic Bilbao, their first visit here for seven years.
This game had everything (but a goal!), even a marriage proposal on the pitch at half time, she said “yes.”
Normally a goalless draw is marginally better than watching paint dry but this game was excitement personified and not for the faint hearted.
Another brilliant crowd of 16,519 watched a dramatic 96 minutes of top quality football.
Both teams missed penalties (taken by subs) and we had a 96th minute goal disallowed (correctly) for offside.
Bilbao’s penalty after an agonising wait for VAR to make its mind up was incredibly harsh on Mallorca but Bilbao missed and justice prevailed. The only downside of this game was some inept refereeing by 39-year-old Asturian, folically-challenged Gonzalez Fuertes.
He booked Dani Rodriguez for a challenge on Yuri after just 43 seconds on the clock.
Yes, the tackle was dangerous, but surely just a finger wagging from the referee would have sufficed that early on.
The first half seemed to fly by as both sides went at it hell for leather. Then just before half time came Mallorca’s best chance. A Salva Sevilla free kick tested Unai Simon in the Bilbao goal, who pushed the ball over.
From the resultant corner, Baba No. 1 headed down and over, a chance gone as the referee blew for half time.
Ten minutes into the second half saw an even better chance go a-begging. Dani Rodriguez went on a mazy run leaving several Basque players in his wake. His initial shot was blocked and the ball fell kindly for Lago Junior (who was back to his tantalising best).
He tried to find a way through a crowded area, then the ball was spectacularly back-heeled by Aleix Febas onto Lago’s favoured left foot for one of the most presentable chances you’ll ever see. Somehow the Ivorian sliced his effort wide, it was head in hands time.
In the 57th minute ex Mallorca hero Aritz Aduriz made his entrance.
He was given gifts galore before kick off and waved to the crowd as he came on to thunderous applause. Four minutes later, Reina made a fabulous save from Raul Garcia as the ball was cleared off the line – all hands to the pump.
In the 62nd minute Kubo came on for a tiring Dani Rodriguez. This 18-year-old Japanese kid is electric, with the quickest feet I’ve ever seen. Salva Sevilla then saw an effort bounce back from the post and into the keeper’s arms. How unlucky was that?! Budimir, who ploughed a lone furrow up front all night, ran himself into the ground and was replaced by fan’s hero Abdon Prats in the 74th minute. He’s been out injured for three months and when Kubo was scythed down in the area, Abdon decided he would take the resultant penalty.
Bad decision, as he sliced his effort past the near post. More head in hands time! Bilbao then poured forward and hit the bar in the 91st minute.
In the melee that followed, the ball appeared to hit a hand. VAR was called into action and after an agonising wait, a penalty was awarded.Aduriz’s tame effort was saved easily by Reina. It was all action stuff then, with the last kick of the game, Alegria had the ball in the net, only to have his effort disallowed for offside.
What a game – the best 0-0 I’ve ever been at, although our lack of goals is still a major concern.
One in four games isn’t good enough. Chelsea loanee Baba Rahman looked the business at left back. We now have two Babas in our line-up, so a little ditty has been composed to them, to the tune of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”: “With a Baba here and a Baba there, here a bah, there a bah, everywhere a Baba.”
Next up Getafe in Madrid next Sunday, 12 noon.