Following a six-year absence, Real Mallorca are back in La Liga Santander after a
sensational comeback against Deportivo la Coruña, overturning a two-goal deficit
from the first leg of the promotion playoff final, with a 3-0 win at a rocking Son Moix on Sunday night. Last Thursday in Galicia it appeared as though Mallorca had blown their chances of a return to La Primera but Vicente Moreno’s players had other ideas in front of 21,210 ecstatic fans.
Mallorca join Salamanca, Malaga, Granada and Eibar as teams which have made the epic journey from non-league football to one of the best leagues in world club football in a matter of months. We built this team in Segunda B and indeed eight of them took part in Sunday's game. We stuck with the nucleus of last season's promotion winners, deciding against binning players after going up to La Segunda.
Coach Moreno, who has survived the modern trend of sacking managers when things go wrong, has become the longest-serving Mallorca boss for many years. The team saved their best performance for the last game of a long, long season on Sunday with a quite unbelievable level of fitness and stamina.
A bright start was rewarded with a strike on 20 minutes. The Serb Ante Budimir looked to be crowded out in a packed penalty area when he received the ball. Transferring it from his right foot to his left, he smacked a shot through traffic and into the net. The Son Moix went wild with fans believing the miracle could be about to unfold before their very eyes. Some of the tackles coming in from a robust defence were meaty, but at least in the Madrid referee we had one of the better La Segunda officials.
If Mallorca fans thought at half time the script couldn’t get any better, that was all about to change. We started the second half with all the intensity of the first. Our midfield were superb with the young Ghanaian, Baba, the best player on the pitch. His efforts allowed Salva Sevilla and Dani Rodriguez much more room to manoeuvre. Baba, with his long legs, blocked off several Depor chances, one in particular saw a Borja Vallis goal-bound effort deflected out of play.
Not long after the second period got under way, Aridai was replaced by Abdon Prats. Depor now had another predator to deal with. After a series of fouls from Deportivo, Mallorca won a free-kick outside the area. This looked well within Salva's range as he had scored from a similar position a month ago. He took four steps back, ran up and hit a beauty into the net. The Son Moix choir were now in full voice as the tie was poised at 2-2. We needed one more goal and prayed that Depor wouldn't score. With nine minutes left, Mallorca sealed the deal. Prats, who under Moreno is a much improved player, homed in on goal after a Baba pass. He let rip with a howitzer that nearly burst the net. Mallorca had performed the mother of all comebacks.
Then it really was heart in mouth time. With Depor needing just one to go through, Quique hit a screamer from close range which had goal written all over it. Somehow Manolo Reina got a hand to the ball to push it away. That save meant Mallorca had won promotion. With Baba still running around like the Energiser Bunny, Mallorca hung on through the four added-on minutes. The ref blew for time and the whole of the Luis Sitjar stand invaded the pitch.