After a weekend when, with their new KFC brand flying off the shelves – Walkers Crisps announced that after 73 years of production they are just about to finish their first sack of potatoes! – Real Mallorca pulled four points clear at the top of La Liga SmartBank with a hard-fought 0-1 win at Logroñes on Saturday night. The result also means they’re still unbeaten on the road, winning nine and drawing four from the 13 games played, conceding just four goals away from Palma. Saturday night’s triumph was described as being “tightly contested.” This was an uncomfortable game for us fans to watch at home. Some, like me, viewed proceedings from behind the settee!
A combative Logroñes, who didn’t look like a team struggling down in the nether regions of the league, scored in the 12th minute when the ball hit our goalkeeper Manolo Reina on his hand then his knee, and Gonzalez without a marker put the home side ahead. The referee did the finger on the earpiece procedure. We then had one of those lengthy delays that VAR’s famous for before the correct verdict of offside was given. That was a wake-up call for Mallorca, and the goal seemed to spur us on.
Six minutes later came that all-important winning goal. A great collective build-up with the participation of six players and just seven touches, started by a Reina clearance, the ball went from Dani Rodriguez to Amath, then on to Salva Sevilla before finishing at the feet of Cufre. He took advantage of a slip by defender Medina to run into the penalty area, giving a sumptuous pass into the path of Antonio Sanchez whose tap-in finish was simplicity personified, 0-1.
The first half became scrappy with both sides guilty of giving the ball away. Our forward pairing of Abdon and Amath hardly got a kick as we failed to take a stranglehold on the game. Logroñes then began to get the upper hand putting over dangerous hanging-in-the-air crosses and whipped in set pieces which our rock-solid defence just about dealt with. Reina in goal was looking nervous under pressure and struggled with the high ball. One of them he fumbled with Gamez clearing off the line. Then Reina made a great save from Medina as Logroñes looked for an equaliser. Mallorca breathed a sigh of relief when a “good” referee from Madrid, Galvez Rascon, blew for the “bocadillo break”!
The longer the second half went on, Logroñes’s fitness levels were severely tested as they started to tire. A Salva Sevilla free kick cannoned off the defensive wall as our coach Luis Garcia Plaza used his five substitutes. We began to see more of the ball and a fantastic effort from outside the box by Dani Rodriguez which crashed against the woodwork showed that Mallorca were still looking to put the game to bed. Final score 0-1.
Mallorca are tearing up the history books in their quest for a quick return to the top flight of Spanish football. Our unbeaten away form is smashing all records and keeping us ahead of the chasing pack of Espanyol, Almeria, Leganes and Sporting Gijon. Back in the day, one of the top managers said that forwards win games but a good defence wins championships. This La Liga SmartBank is unquestionably a tough league and Saturday’s struggle is one of many uncomfortable fixtures we’ll face from now until the end of the season in May. Saturday’s win was all about virtues of pragmatism – or – play badly and still win.
The game of the weekend in La Segunda saw Sporting Gijon (unbeaten at home) draw 1-1 with second-placed and league favourites Espanyol. Sporting have a Serbian-born striker named Uros Djurdjevia who’s scored 15 goals so far this season. This guy is scoring goals for fun and is certainly one to watch when we go to El Molinon in Gijon on Sunday, March 14. It will be interesting to see how our defence (the best in the league) fare against the best striker in the league.
Next up we’re at home to Cartagena (who beat Leganes 1-0 on Saturday) in the Son Moix on Sunday at 18:15.
PS It’s exactly a year ago today since spectators were allowed into the Son Moix. That day, March 1, in front of 14,241 fans, we lost 0-1 to Getafe in La Liga. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take that long until we’re allowed back in. I can just imagine the show of emotion from the Real Mallorca faithful when that day finally arrives.
AND FINALLY, a couple are sitting in a restaurant and the waitress notices the man start to slide down his chair onto the floor. Concerned, she approaches the table saying “Madam, is your husband all right?” The woman replies “Yes, he’s fine thanks.” Looking confused, the waitress says “But he’s just slid under the table.” “No, he hasn’t” replies the woman. “He just walked in the door!”