After a weekend when a friend of mine met a Chinese drug addict who said “Have you seen my cocaine?” – my friend replied “Not since he starred in Zulu!” – Real Mallorca suffered a 2-0 defeat against Sevilla on Sunday night, which makes much more difficult their chances of La Liga survival. We’ve been a Jekyll and Hyde team this season, playing well and winning at home one game, then going away and looking second rate the next. It was a match our Sevilla loanee, Alejandro Pozo, will want to forget as he was involved in both his parent club’s goals and most definitely had a hand in the first which came in the 40th minute.
The ball struck the outstretched hand of Pozo, who had his back to the ball, and after VAR intervened the referee awarded the spot kick. That’s 16 penalties we’ve given away this season, equalling the record set by Barcelona in 89/90. Lucas Ocampos sent Reina the wrong way from 12 yards, 1-0. The VAR situation involving involuntary handball needs reviewing. It was an incredibly harsh outcome and grossly unfair but when you’re down at the wrong end of the table, every marginal decision goes against you. Strangely enough, when Sevilla beat us here last December there was another VAR controversy. That time the decision came several minutes after the game had been restarted!
Sevilla, who are now unbeaten in 13 games, looked an awesome side and we did well to keep them down to just the one goal at the break. Mallorca coach Vicente Moreno had to make a late team change when Martin Valjent pulled a muscle and had to withdraw. Our defence held out for the first half but our two star players, Kubo and Baba, were rarely seen. The pace of the game was unbelievable in the 28°C stifling heat. Budimir went down in the area just before half time. This time VAR wasn’t even consulted and Budimir was booked for simulation by a referee who was totally inconsistent.
As the second half wore on, the Mallorca players looked totally knackered and Sevilla’s second was a real howler. Substitute Youssef En Nesyri latched on to a long punt from the goalkeeper, barged past a static Pozo, and lobbed the ball over Reina’s head, who by now was AWOL in no-man’s land.
Moreno rang the changes late on but once again our bench players (unlike Sevilla) had no influence on the outcome. The lack of quality outwith our normal starting eleven is one of the main reasons we’re flirting with relegation. Our best players are running on empty after the Herculean efforts they’ve put in playing three games a week over the last 21 days.
So it’s all down to the last two games for Real Mallorca. Firstly Granada, who came up with us last season, at 9 pm in Palma on Thursday. They’ve had a fantastic campaign and are now in with a shout of getting into the Europa League. It’s another difficult game for us against a team with everything to play for. Then it is away for the final match on Sunday against Osasuna. We’ll have to remain focused while also waiting to see what happens over the next few days with Celta Vigo and Alaves. Mallorca need to earn at least four points in these two remaining games if they are to have any chance of staying in the top flight. Mathematically, survival is still possible but us Mallorquinistas are praying for a miracle.
In other news, new rules are about to come into force in Spanish football which will see the end of advertising of gambling companies inside Spanish football stadiums and on shirts. These new rules mean that eight La Liga clubs will need new shirt sponsors next season. As if clubs in Spain haven’t had enough to contend with trying to negotiate financial considerations during the lockdown!
Real Mallorca’s sponsor is Betfred so they must find a new benefactor in time for the new season in September. It’s a headache they don’t need as they seek to find a company willing to spend some serious money, a task which in this current financial climate won’t be easy. Betting in Spain forms an integral part of the football experience for many, so the loss of this particular way of publicising their businesses could have huge repercussions.
AND FINALLY, I went sky diving today for the first time ever. This guy strapped himself onto me and we jumped out of the plane, rapidly plummeting towards the ground. Halfway down he shouted out “So tell me how long you have been a sky diving instructor?”