Villareal Mallorca | Última hora

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Real Mallorca (after a shocking defensive display) were sucked into the La Liga relegation mire after yet another dire away performance which saw them lose 3-0 to Villareal. As Spanish top flight football reaches the business end of the 2021/22 season, the Palma team look to be heading down the slippery slope to La Segunda from which they came last year. It’s been estimated we need another 20 points from the remaining 17 games to stay up.

Coach Luis Garcia Plaza’s team suffered their fourth consecutive defeat and have won only once in the last 13 games. They also haven’t scored in La Liga since losing 4-1 at Granada in the week before Christmas. I watched this game in my usual haunt on away matchdays, the Mallorcafé, which was full inside with a few brass monkeys braving the elements outside. Many left before the end but the names on the lips of those who stayed were coach LGP and sporting director Pablo Ortells.

A slow start to the game saw both teams unable to create any real chances. Then in the 12th minute Villareal fortuitously went ahead after our central defender Franco Russo put through his own goal. Russo had what they call in Spanish a “horroroso” game, an own goal, gave a penalty away and was sent off near the end. Villareal doubled their lead in the 34th minute, a great counterattack move saw Trigueros getting on the end of a brilliant cross from Pedraza, 2-0. After the break, Mallorca struggled to create anything resembling an attack and unless we bring in a striker in the last week of the transfer window, we’re in big trouble. With time running out, Villareal (who made it look so easy against poor opponents) scored a third from the penalty spot just to rub salt into Mallorca’s gaping wounds.

Two weeks ago, right back Joan Sastre left for Greek football (he scored for his new side at the weekend !), leaving us without a replacement on the bench. In the cup win against Espanyol, we played two left backs. Raillo, our anchor in defence, hasn’t played since August and Russo, his stand in, has done an adequate job until Saturday when he had a “mare.” At the moment we have four goalkeepers, one right back, only two central defenders, two wingers, one of them Mboula (who would be as well sitting in the stand with us) and Llabres from the B team. But up front, it’s a disaster, we have three strikers who between them have scored – four goals !!

Our next home league game is on Saturday, February 5, against Cadiz, kick off 4:15. They are 2 points behind us on 18, so it’s a game RCD Mallorca just have to win in a direct duel for permanence. Lose, or even draw, then the white hankies will be out from disgruntled fans and the coach will be under extreme scrutiny. Some of the selection and substitution decisions from LGP are causing concern.

Salva Sevilla at 37 is still one of our best players in what could probably be his last season and he needs to start games, not come on as a substitute midway through the second half.

We signed an expensive on-loan goalkeeper on Thursday, Sergio Rico from PSG. In no way am I blaming Saturday’s defeat on 20-year-old Leo Roman, but if you’re paying a player top wages he has to play from the start. In the warm-up before the game, Take Kubo and Battaglia had a clash of heads with the result being that the big Argentinian had to have his head swathed in a big white bandage. That raised a few sniggers in the bar !

On Saturday Villareal had to make 10 changes to a team ravaged by international call-ups, Covid and injuries. They still never broke sweat and if they’d got out of second gear, God knows what the score would have been. One of our substitutes is lanky striker Fer Niño who’s on loan from – Villareal.

Near the end he missed an absolute sitter, heading the ball over the bar when it looked easier to score.

It’s now more than clear that several of our regular first team selections are simply not good enough for La Liga’s high standards. Changing Abdon for Fer Niño and Sanchez for Amath didn’t make the slightest difference. Although when Salva Sevilla came on in the 68th minute we played better.

Down the bottom of La Liga, Cadiz, Getafe, Elche and Alaves have all changed their managers over the past few weeks and all of them (except Alaves) have started winning games, getting themselves slowly out of trouble. LGP looks to be running out of ideas and cut a forlorn figure standing in his technical area. Will he keep his job ? The Cadiz result will make that decision.

Questions are being raised in the media with regard to the technical director Pablo Ortells. The planning and bringing in of players has been horrendous. We have no defence (as was proved on Saturday) and all we’ve brought in during the transfer window so far is a goalkeeper.

True, in a crisis like RCD Mallorca find themselves, everybody is to blame, but it’s not helped by a lack of reinforcements in January. I was asked about the huge amount of money being loaned by an investment company to most La Liga clubs including us. That is forthcoming but has to be used on infrastructure (e.g. ground improvements) and not for the purchase of players.

AND FINALLY, two 90-year-old men, Bob and Jim, have been friends all their lives. Sadly, Bob’s on the point of leaving this mortal coil so Jim visits him every day. Jim tells Bob “We’ve both loved football all our lives, playing and watching the game. Please do me a favour when you get to heaven, you must somehow let me know if there’s football there.” Bob promises to do just that. Shortly after, Bob passes on.

At midnight a couple of days later, there’s an almighty clap of thunder and a voice bellows out “Jim, Jim, it’s Bob here from heaven. I have some good news and some bad news.” “Tell me the good news first,” says Jim. “The good news is there IS football in heaven and all our friends who died before us are here.

Better than that, we’re all young again and, best of all, we can play football for ever and never get tired.” “Wow,” replies Jim, “that’s brilliant. So what’s the bad news then ?” Bob says “You’re in the team for Saturday” !