Real Mallorca were provisional leaders of La Liga SmartBank on Wednesday after two penalties from Dani Rodriguez and Lago Junior saw them beat a “dirty” Cartagena 1-2. With 14 games played, the islanders have won 8, drawn 5 and lost just once – 15 goals scored and 3 conceded.
Once again Mallorca were fast out of the traps and for the first ten minutes they were all over the home side. Then after a quarter of an hour they seemed to lose their way and the game became dead boring. Coach Luis Garcia Plaza as usual shuffled his pack and left out Salva Sevilla and Galaretta, the two brains of the team, and two victims of the coach’s rotation policy. Their replacements Febas and Baba struggled in midfield with Baba being booked after just 11 minutes for a clumsy tackle. He was substituted on the hour mark.
LGP is a coach with clear ideas and rotations are the name of his game. He seems to like Febas who doesn’t have the engine we need in the middle of the pitch. Up front was an unmitigated disaster for Mallorca. Alex Alegria, Lago and Murilo were rubbish. Lago Junior had his first start after Ivory Coast international duty but I’m afraid to say he looked desperate at times and was booked for a dangerous tackle from behind. Lago is far from the player who made such a difference two years ago.
Cartagena were all elbows and arms and the game was ruined by referee Avalos Barrera’s perpetual whistle-blowing.
In the second half there was a slight improvement from Mallorca and in the 68th minute VAR came to our rescue. Sastre crossed the ball and local defender Rhyner was adjudged to have handled in the area. After several minutes of deliberation the referee looked at the monitor then pointed to the spot and Dani Rodriguez made no mistake – a soft penalty but 0-1 nevertheless.
From then until the end Mallorca dominated and got another big slice of luck in the 80th minute. Substitute Mboula tumbled over and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot again. Lago converted this time, despite the ‘keeper getting fingertips to the effort, 0-2. The home side were down to 10 men after Carlos was dismissed but that made them come alive and Mallorca were made to suffer. Cartagena charged forward and in the 90th minute an unmarked Elady hammered in the consolation, 1-2. Then they almost grabbed a headed equaliser with seconds left.
Mallorca play again on Sunday at 18:15 in Palma against Logroñes, who’ve won the last five games on the bounce. They are by no means a “gimme” for us. Will Mallorca still be top then? That was all down to the Espanyol/Leganes result last night.
Very sad news indeed about the passing of arguably one of the best players ever, Diego Maradona, on Wednesday. As expected, the English media seem to be remembering him mostly for the “Hand of God” incident in 1986. A bigger cheating incident for me was Thierry Henry’s handball (twice) in the Ireland/France World Cup qualifier of 2009. I was privileged to see Maradona play against Real Mallorca in the old Luis Sitjar ground in September 1983. Barcelona were in town and they had recently signed the exciting Argentinian from Boca Juniors for £5 million. The Luis Sitjar was full to bursting, with record ticket sales of 30 million pesetas. Barcelona won easily 1-4 with Maradona scoring with a “cheeky chip” in the second half. Our “Ultras” back then were mostly Argentinians and every time Maradona touched the ball there was this huge gasp. The opening goal was scored by Northern Ireland legend Gerry Armstrong, who squeezed in a far-post header, and I’m sure he’ll be telling all his pals back in Ulster now “I played and scored against Diego Maradona!”
Fan’s View is back on Sunday.