Action taking place in front of new East stand. | MIQUEL A. BORRAS

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When I saw that “follically challenged” Gonzalez Fuertes from Gijon was going to be our referee against Real Betis, I just knew there was trouble ahead, and so it proved to be. Señor Fuertes was the main protagonist in this game and at times lost control of proceedings. What made his display all the more galling for us Mallorquinistas was the fact that Spanish La Liga referees are the highest paid in any of the top five European leagues and for his inept showing on Saturday night he received the basic wage of 6,000 euros!!

Before the Spanish season kicked off, there was a series of meetings with referees, coaches and players in which the “arbitros” made it clear that they were going to be more rigorous when awarding penalties and on Saturday alone, in just three games, six penalties were awarded. Discussions on arbitration mistakes are taboo in Spanish football, which is just as well because Señor Fuertes would have been hounded off the island after this performance.

Fuertes (perhaps the worst referee in top flight Spanish football) awarded Betis two penalties, the first one was clear, the second most definitely wasn’t. Both penalty incidents, one in each half, involved midfielder Rodrigo Battaglia, who had the same black afternoon last season away at Betis when he committed an offence which cost RCD Mallorca at least a share of the spoils. After just eight minutes the ball clearly hit the Mallorca player’s hand in the penalty area and it was a penalty all day long. The referee missed the incident which, for the player involved, was as innocent as it was absurd because there wasn’t any danger from the visitors. After the incident there was a delay of several minutes as the VAR team in Madrid (all three of them !) couldn’t make up their minds, telling Fuertes to check the pitch-side monitor. After more faffing about Betis were awarded the kick and Iglesias banged it in, 0-1.

To their credit, Mallorca kept plugging away without much to offer in the final third. There were dozens of niggly fouls which prevented the flow of the game and the referee found his yellow card – and some!

With us going behind early doors and against a quality team like Betis (admittedly well under strength), it was going to be difficult. We were comfortable defending with our five-man wall but creativity in the opposition half then became more difficult. We managed to snuff out any shots on target from Betis in the second half as we pushed further forward from midfield.

Then in the 56th minute came the equaliser. Betis thought they had the game all sewn up. Mallorca found a different rhythm, especially from the South Korean Kang In Lee who had his best game. A long pass from Raillo was touched on by Jaume Costa towards Kang and his inch-perfect cross was headed in from close range by Muriqi to score his first goal of the season, 1-1. The game then became stretched and scrappy with umpteen niggly tackles seeing the players falling and rolling all over the place.

Then came the game’s major talking point in the 72nd minute. In a scrap between Battaglia and Fekir (they had a coming together), on what looked marginally like outside the penalty area, mayhem broke loose as the referee awarded a penalty. Mallorca players were incensed as the yellow card was shown all over the place. This time for whatever reason VAR didn’t get involved, leaving Señor “Muppet” Fuertes to make a decision as he’d already made his mind up it was...another penalty. Iglesias again did the business, 1-2.

With nine minutes added on, Kang In Lee saw a brilliant free kick crack against the goal frame and Costa and Muriqi had efforts scrambled clear.

Most of the Mallorca bookings were for dissent caused by outbursts of frustration from the home players. Betis won the possession count 47-53, we won the corner count 5-2.

All in all, a gallant effort from Mallorca but reinforcements are required. Coach Aguirre is passionate about his five-man defence and we have only conceded three (including pre-season) goals, all from penalties. We showed plenty of willingness on Saturday but to achieve wins in this very difficult league, we need more quality.

Two possible signings have been mentioned over the weekend, one is Barcelona’s Danish striker Martin Braithwaite, who’s being forced out of the Nou Camp. Also in the pipeline is Ukrainian international defender/midfielder Mykola Matvijenko, who currently plays for (in limbo side) Shaktar Donetsk.

Fans who I spoke to after the game who sit in the new, refurbished, East grandstand, were full of praise for the new setup. However, they were scathing with regard to the catering facilities, or lack of them. Queues stretched for almost the length of the new stand as only three outlets were operating. One complainer (who remains nameless but lives in Binissalem!) said the old hot dog/hamburger van had gone to be replaced by expensive ready-made, pre-cooked hamburgers/hotdogs served on polystyrene trays.

PS After Betis had scored their second goal, the Ultras threw on a toilet roll. Top media presenter Charles Nutter, who I’ve sat next to for 22 years, said, with his Lancashire caustic wit, “They wouldn’t have done that during Covid!”