Real Mallorca provisionally went six points clear at the top of La Liga SmartBank on Friday night (with 51 points) after they beat Albacete 0-1. It’s only the second time in twelve visits that we’ve won at the Carlos Belmonte stadium and the result means we’re still unbeaten on the road this season, a quite remarkable statistic when last season, albeit when we were in La Liga, we only won once all campaign away from Palma. Joint second place sides Espanyol (who play away at Lugo tomorrow night) and Almeria (they played last night at Fuenlabrada) come to town over the next two Sundays and if we get maximum points Mallorca could take a substantial step in our quest for a quick return to the top table of Spanish football.
We took to the pitch on Friday night without centre back Martin Valjent who is on four yellow cards (one away from suspension), so coach Luis Garcia Plaza didn’t want to risk him with these two massive games pending.
Mallorca consolidated their lead at the top after what can only be described as a rugged encounter, not helped by an officious card- and whistle-happy referee.
LGP’s team played much of the game with an extra man after Argentinian hard man Nicolas Gorosito saw red in the 36th minute. First of all he felled Amath and minutes later was sent off after a bone-crunching tackle on Abdon Prats. Gorosito was not well pleased with the sending off and took at least five minutes to leave the pitch. A 20th minute shot from Ruiz de Galarreta warmed the gloves of ex Mallorca ‘keeper Tomeu Nadal and two free kicks taken by Olivan and Abdon were practically all we had to show attacking-wise in the first half. The home side never really threatened and they only created danger from set pieces. When they did come forward, Albacete concentrated their attacks against our makeshift right back Antonio Sanchez who showed a lot of improvised tenacity playing out of position. He came through the 90 minutes relatively unscathed. Once again wily old “Silver Fox” Salva Sevilla pulled the strings in midfield, he had a brilliant game. Along with Galarreta, Salva dominated midfield possession.
In the second half, LGP introduced changes, bringing on Alvaro Gimenez, Febas and Cufre. And later in the half our new signing Mollejo came on for five minutes. Albacete were finding Amath a handful and he was repeatedly fouled. He then got is own back, fortuitously in the 58th minute, Cufre broke forward for Mallorca, his pass was cleared by an Albacete defender who saw the ball crash against Dani Rodriguez. It rebounded to Amath and he netted his third goal in as many games, and his sixth of the season. He is now level with Dani Rodriguez and Abdon Prats.
The Palma side by now were in a stick or twist situation. Should they go for a second goal and put the match to bed ? Or defend their slender lead, which is always a danger. They decided on the latter and nearly came unstuck. Four minutes from the end, Albacete’s best player on the night, their Alvaro Gimenez, went on a jinky run, then tripped over Salva’s outstretched foot – penalty kick, no question. Up stepped Gimenez to take the resultant penalty and his shot smashed off the post with Reina nearly getting a hand to it.
SUMMING UP : The next two Sundays are huge games for Real Mallorca, win them and we’re heading in the right direction. Someone was telling me we need just four more wins to be guaranteed a play-off place. It’s such a shame that us fans can’t get into the Son Moix to see first hand this terrific Real Mallorca side play in the flesh. Football isn’t football without the fans and I’m sure Son Moix would have been pretty near to a sell-out next Sunday and the crowds’ input would definitely work in the team’s favour. Man of the match for me was Amath. After being out injured for the best part of two years at Getafe, he’s now back to his best form both in attack and tracking back into defence. Sanchez did well at right back and if Sastre and Gamez are not fit for the Espanyol game, then Sanchez on Friday’s showing is more than a capable stand-in.
AND FINALLY, pre-lockdown, I was lost in Great Yarmouth, searching for a hospital after getting a call that a friend had been admitted while on a night out. After attempting to communicate with a native in the hope of being told directions, it became clear the accent barrier was simply too vast to circumnavigate. Somehow we began to make some ground, it was like playing charades. “Big important building, lots of people in pyjamas on medication.” His wary nods became an understanding smile, and I was directed immediately to Asda !