After a weekend when on Saturday night Bradley Walsh was on two channels at the same time – does he ever go home? – Real Mallorca’s substitute striker Angel Rodriguez (in collaboration with Ghanaian midfielder Iddrisu Baba) headed in the game’s only goal after 74 minutes, giving the Palma side a much-needed three points in a hard fought 1-0 win against a “dirty” Levante side.
Mallorca were much more aggressive in the second half after a lacklustre opening 45 minutes. We had much clearer ideas and were always on the lookout for a necessary win after a month of disappointing results.
We’re now sitting in 12th place on 11 points and in the relatively comfortable area (mid-table obscurity) with the international break taking over the football calendar over the next 12/13 days.
The first half looked like a continuation of last Sunday’s Osasuna 2-3 defeat. We looked lost at times, desperate and bereft of ideas. Neither side had any shot on target of any note and we didn’t win our first corner until the 35th minute.
Things got very tetchy before half time with Levante especially giving away countless fouls, and it was surprising we got to the break still wearing red tops as the visitors pulled and tugged our shirts every which way but loose.
We had another “debutant” referee in Señor Muniz Ruiz, a policeman from Pontevedra (why do we get these numpty arbitros?) and he spent most of the game blowing his whistle at anything that moved.
As the teams were leaving the pitch, mayhem broke out after our right-back Pablo Maffeo made an inflammatory remark in the direction of Levante boss Paco Lopez and his brother, assistant coach Toni Lopez. As Levante are win-less so far this season, Maffeo more or less said “Shut up, you’re getting sacked in the morning!” and it all kicked off.
The blue touch paper had been lit as the fracas continued in the tunnel, ending up with Toni Lopez being shown a red card. The game had come to life – off the pitch!!
Fines for the incident will be imminent and Maffeo apologised via Twitter not long after. It’s turned out he was right as on Sunday night Paco Lopez became the first La Liga coaching casualty this season when he was sacked.
Into the second half and Mallorca looked a different team, they wanted the ball much more than the visitors, who by now had started to use the dark arts of tackling that left Mallorca players falling down like flies.
However, 15 minutes into the second period and Levante nearly scored. Manolo Reina had a “wobbly” and Martin Valjent was forced into a goal-line clearance. Then our best player (in my opinion) Kang In-Lee had a couple of shots saved by Aitor Fernandez in the Levante goal (he played a blinder) as we upped the tempo.
In the 74th minute joy had arrived – or did it? From a set piece outside the box Baba and substitute Angel Rodriguez jumped for the ball together. Baba out-jumped Angel and the ball came down off Baba onto Angel’s head and into the net.
In a couple of games in which so little happened, this incident sent the crowd into raptures for a minute or so. Then the boys in the VAR hub in Madrid intervened, somebody had strayed offside – or had they? – the plot thickened. Suddenly it was nail-biting time. After what seemed like an eternity, the referee allowed the goal, cue celebration number two, 1-0.
Ten minutes after the goal, the VAR team were involved again. This time Jordi Mboula, who’d only been on the pitch for a minute, committed an innocent penalty by touching the ball with an outstretched hand. Up stepped Jose Luis Morales “El Comandante” and his tame effort was easily saved by Reina.
Angel then nearly scored a second but it didn’t matter, Mallorca were home and hosed. We had been re-united with victory. For Mallorca it was a fair result as we dominated the second half and had half a dozen chances to score more goals.
The win serves us well to what is coming after the break, Real Sociedad (A), Valencia (A) and Sevilla (H).
SUMMING UP: Goalkeeper/captain Manolo Reina went from zero to hero in a few days and Kang-In Lee continues to show word class touches. Baba or “El Pulpo” (because of his long legs) played another major role in the win. There were more nerves than football on show but Mallorca held theirs in the second half and ended up rewarded.
On the day Mallorca had been hoping to fill the Son Moix, with most restrictions being lifted, barely 50% of the capacity turned up.
Although it was the best attendance (11,803) so far this season, it was disappointing.
Another major problem marked the entry of fans to the Sol Alta/Baja area. In chaotic scenes, hundreds were kept waiting (without any social distancing) for up to 20 minutes as staff found it hard to process the new digital season tickets on mobile devices, having difficulty reading the screens because of the bright sunshine. Us oldies using the traditional plastic variety had less problems.