The quest to reach La Liga Santander continued on Thursday night when Deportivo La Coruña beat Real Mallorca 2-0 in the first leg of the playoff final. The second leg is on Sunday at a sold-out (21,000) Son Moix.
Following Mallorca's best opening fifteen minutes away from home this season, the momentum swung in the home side's favour towards the end of the first half. Depor took the lead in the 36th minute when once again Mallorca failed to deal with a free-kick from the edge of the eighteen-yard box. Cartabia was able to squeeze in the kick from what looked like an impossible angle. Minutes later Mallorca went down to ten men after an ugly incident. Marc Pedraza caught Alex Bergantiños’ face with his studs as the pair slid towards a loose ball. Pedraza realised the gravity of his opponent’s injury and there were immediate calls for medical assistance. Pedraza was in tears and clearly upset at the impact on Bergantiños that was involuntary. The incident took a bizarre twist when another muppet referee failed to stop the game after what looked like a serious head injury. He allowed play to continue as Pedraza was being consoled by the Depor manager and ex-Mallorca player, Pep Luis Marti. The referee was then alerted by one of his touchline officials, who obviously knew the rules regarding head injuries better than the more senior referee. After all the shenanigans partly died down, Pedraza saw red and Mallorca had a mountain to climb for the next 50 minutes. Although the injury looked serious, reports from the hospital after the game indicated it was not as bad as initially feared.
It now looked an impossible task for Mallorca in such a high intensity game and, added to the fact that our away form has been rubbish this season, we were really up against it. Mallorca were now involved in backs-to-the-wall defending as a rampant Deportivo upped the ante, backed by a 32,000 Galician crowd, of which several hundred were travelling Mallorca fans. Leo Suarez, who had come close to being dismissed earlier, was replaced in midfield by Baba as Mallorca were in damage limitation. We struggled to get out of our own half and began giving the ball away cheaply, too many times.
In the 78th minute Deport doubled their lead and there was even more controversy over this one. An effort from Quique Gonzalez looked to have crossed the line. In the absence of goal-line and VAR technology, the referee consulted his linesman for a full three minutes before giving the goal. Heartbreak time for Real Mallorca and their fans.
It was a game of fine margins and now means Real Mallorca have to perform a minor miracle against a nothing-special Deportivo La Coruña.