Real Mallorca 2 - Albacete 0
It's advantage to Real Mallorca when they fulfilled their objective on Thursday night with two brilliant goals which saw them win the first leg of their playoff game against Albacete, 2-0, in front of 16,311 delighted supporters. Winning at home without conceding is an excellent result but it's only half time. The islanders must stay focused and not get careless, as Albacete in their tight Carlos Belmonte ground will be a different kettle of fish in Sunday's second leg.
Mallorca took to the pitch like a team inspired and pegged the visitors back so much that they didn't get over the halfway line for several minutes. We were direct, aggressive and courageous, and it was no surprise we took the lead in the 22nd minute. Lago Junior latched on to a loose ball, passed to Abdon Prats and his precision through-ball set the diminutive Argentine Leo Suarez through on goal. Suarez (who is on loan from Villareal) made no mistake, sending the crowd into raptures.
If the crowd had made some noise before the goal, they certainly shattered the decibel level after the ball bulged the net; the atmosphere was pure electricity. After the break, Mallorca seemed to lose a bit of precision as Albacete fought their way back and caused a few minor problems. Mallorca in the second half had on the pitch seven of the eleven players who won promotion from the catacombs of Segunda B a year ago. That in itself speaks volumes for the fantastic job coach Vicente Moreno has done as the club's American owners watched on from the 'directors’ box.
After a reasonable first half in which he could have awarded each side a penalty, the referee from Las Palmas became pedantic, whistling for cheap free kicks for negligible contact. Albacete were throwing caution to the wind in their search for that all-important away goal, which left them vulnerable at the back. Their Manacor-born goalkeeper Tomas Nadal made a couple of good saves and was the busier of the two keepers by a mile; Reina didn’t have a save to make all night. In the 89th minute Mallorca's second goal brought the house down. Out of nothing, man of the match Dani Rodriguez hit a worldy from outside the area which had goal written all over it the second it left his boot. Dani had scored against his old team in a game he'll probably remember for a long time and he was mesmerising from start to finish.