Reina in the Mallorca goal saves against Albacete.

16-06-2019Carlos Gil-Roig

Real Mallorca are in the playoff finals and are just two games away from a return to La Liga after a six-year absence. The Palma side lost their second leg semi-final game 1-0 away at Albacete but went through 2-1 on aggregate. It was a case of objective fulfilled, but watching the game definitely wasn't for those of a nervous disposition.

Mallorca started off promisingly enough with the team pressing high up the pitch. The first 15 minutes looked to be exactly as our coach Vicente Moreno wanted but as usual, as happens in these playoffs, things didn't go to plan. After just 15 minutes Mallorca went behind. The referee whistled for a dubious free-kick award on the right side of the area. Mallorca's attempt at a defensive wall was pathetic and the French/Senegalese Jeremie Bala caught Manolo Reina unawares. He had no chance at the near post as the so-called defensive wall failed to stay in place. Coach Vicente Moreno jumped off the bench in annoyance when the goal went in, and it has to be described as sloppy defending.

Not long after, one of Mallorca’s unsung heroes, Marc Pedraza, got his head on a cross and Albacete's Manacor-born goalkeeper Tomeu Nadal pulled off a super save. Minutes later our central defender Martin Valjent rose high to nod in what looked like the equaliser; again Nadal saved at the second attempt.

After the break there was a major alteration to the game plan. Joan Sastre, who was playing as a proper right back, was pushed further forward and Mallorca began to take the game by the scruff of the neck. They refused to be intimidated by some shady Albacete fouls. Abdon Prats, Leo Suarez and Lago all came close and questions were being asked whether the islanders could hold on, as the home side threw everything but the kitchen sink in Mallorca’s direction.

Then with a final throw of the dice, the Ukranian hit man Zozulya saw his net-bound header tipped over the bar by a flying Manolo Reina with only minutes remaining. The same thing happened again a minute from the end. In added time Albacete won a free kick from a dangerous position. Again Reina rose to the occasion and kept Mallorca's La Liga hopes alive. Our goalkeeper was a man inspired on Sunday and definitely kept us in play-off contention.

Mallorca now travel to the Riazor to face Deportivo La Coruña on Thursday night at 9 pm. It's a logistical nightmare for Mallorca fans getting there but there'll undoubtedly be many making the trip.