Real Mallorca won their first game on the road in just over eight months or 13 games or 261 days to be more pedantic (when they beat Numancia 2-1 on 16 May last year) defeating Ponferradina 2-0 on Sunday night. A huge weight was lifted off the club’s (and the fans’) shoulders when a Pereira penalty and an own goal gave us all three points at El Toralin.
Mallorca were clearly superior to their opponents who, after a bright start to the season, are sinking like a stone and who sacked their coach after this game. They didn’t create even a half-chance of danger and Mallorca took full advantage to finish comfortable winners.
Returning coach Fernando Vazquez said before the game that keeping a clean sheet goes a long way to winning points and games, and for the second week running since he took over, his philosophical words reached fruition. As long as we can keep the door shut at the back, our results will improve.
The major talking point in the first half came after 39 minutes. A free kick taken by Sabater was headed on to the bar by our centre back David Costas and the rebound headed back in by Acuña also cannoned off the upright with Santamaria in the home goal beaten all ends up. Throughout the first half new Ivorian striker Lago Junior worked his socks off and chased everything. He was unlucky not to get on the score sheet and I feel a goal from him next Sunday at the Son Moix is a sure bet. Half time came with Mallorca in the ascendency.
After the break and Vazquez’s rallying team talk at half time, everything improved even more. Mallorca pressed up field and it looked like a goal wasn’t far away. In the 59th minute Acuña was replaced by new signing Alfred Ortuño, and here was a player who could run at defences, something we haven’t seen all season. He created more danger in half an hour than Coro, Acuña and the recently-departed Bianchi managed all season so far. Ortuño’s pass in the 79th minute put Brandon Thomas through.
The Cala d’Or youngster was unceremoniously bundled over by home keeper Santamaria inside the area (he was lucky not to be shown a red), as referee Ais Reig pointed to the spot, then booked the custodian of the onion bag. The keeper went down injured, taking what seemed an eternity to recover.
In fact, it was five minutes as Pereira stood on the penalty spot with the ball in his hands waiting to take the kick. Under mounting pressure, the Frenchman sent the keeper the wrong way as he scored his second penalty in two weeks. Four minutes from time a corner from Sabater saw Ortuño climb higher than anybody else, sending a header off the far post which hit the legs of Ponferradina defender Andy and his efforts to clear caused a Pandy-monium, as the ball finished in the net.
SUMMING UP: This game started out as a typical second division slogging war of attrition with, early doors, precious little good football and few goalscoring chances. But once Mallorca settled into a rhythm and a game plan that all changed. After this showing, Mallorca look like a team on the up once again, but let’s not get carried away too soon. It was a good, solid, workmanlike performance, and we’ll take the three points and a clean sheet any day of the week. Who cares if we haven’t scored a goal from open play in the last two games. It’s all about winning.
The three points have at last given us some breathing space, albeit just two points above the bottom four. We now play the bottom side Bilbao Athletic at Son Moix next Sunday at 5pm. Surely we can make it a hat-trick of wins? Six points collected in a week hasn’t happened to Real Mallorca in quite some time. We must keep winning matches and keep the pressure on.
I viewed the game in my usual Mallorca peña bar and the “Vazquez affect” meant there were more than the usual half dozen watching. The talk in the bar during and after the game was the impressive debut of the Ivorian Lago Junior: with his electric pace he was a handful for the home defence. His tireless running and creativity going forward reminded me a little bit of a young Samuel Eto’o, but maybe I’m going a bit too far there. He also got a bloody nose for his efforts but one thing’s for sure, he’s going to be a crowd pleaser at Son Moix. Ortuño came on near the end and looked a real rufty tufty, old-fashioned centre forward, who was not easily brushed off the ball looked to take no prisoners.
Sunday’s three points and back-to-back wins are due in no uncertain terms to returning coach Fernando Vazquez and he’s played a major part of an upturn in fortunes. His knack of bringing out the best from his players was there for all to see at Ponferradina. Long may it continue.
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