Real Mallorca cemented their claim for a place in the promotional playoffs when they thumped struggling Zaragoza 3-0 on Monday night.
The Palma side are hitting a rich vein of form just at the right time and Monday’s emphatic win was their third victory in a row. We’re now in sixth place, seven points from second top, automatic promotion side Granada. A goal by centre half Antonio Raillo, his second in two games, nodded in on the stroke of half time saw Mallorca take a deserved lead against a Zaragoza side who in the first half played spoiling tactics, which wasn’t helped by a poor referee who let lots of bookable offences go unpunished. The first half was a niggly affair with many Zaragoza players going down far too easily. The game needed a goal and Raillo gladly obliged to put a smile on the Mallorca fans’ faces as they mingled around the catering outlets at the break.
In the second half Mallorca continued to dominate and they were given a major boost when Zaragoza’s Nieto was sent off in the 73rd minute. Most of Mallorca’s attacks came down the left flank where the combination of Estupiñan and Lago Junior was tormenting Zaragoza’s defence. Croatian striker Ante Budimir put in a good shift, despite being booked in the first half, and coach Vicente Moreno took him off in the 71st minute to be replaced by Abdon Prats. In the 77th minute Abdon found himself in space near the penalty spot. He controlled the ball before hitting a screamer into the net. This was Abdon’s first goal since October and, boy, did he celebrate. Then it was Aridai’s turn. Minutes before he scored, he was over-greedy and instead of passing to an unmarked player had a go himself and the chance was wasted. Lago Junior passed to Aridai in the 82nd minute and his thunderous effort nearly burst the net. We almost scored twice near the end, but substitute Stoichkov fluffed a couple of half chances as Mallorca looked to be on easy street.
Despite the fact that it was the much-despised Monday night football, the crowd of 7,837 was much larger than I’d anticipated and they were treated to a great football exhibition from Real Mallorca in the second hal, in what was probably our best 45 minutes of the season. Once again we showed how hard we are to beat at home and dominated the game, although Zaragoza came close on the possession count. They flattered to deceive, looking dangerous in build-ups but disastrous when they got a sight of goal.
In a festival of second half football, Mallorca were sound in defence and with an attacking midfield. Salva Sevilla was in top form and Baba has improved every game and had an outstanding 90 minutes. Man of the match was Lago Junior, who laid on two of the goals and never seemed to stop running. All he needs now is to get back on the score sheet, and he’s a vital part of this Mallorca resurgence. Budimir upfront once again proved a handful for the visiting defence, he fought and pressed for every ball without much reward.
Our second two goals were brilliantly executed and wouldn’t have been out of place in any top league. Mallorca are oozing confidence for which coach Vicente Moreno has to take all the credit. It seems everything he touches turns to gold. We are the form team in La Segunda at the moment and face second-bottom Cordoba away next Sunday at midday. Mallorca can now be classed as serious promotion contenders, injuries to key players and suspensions aside.