RCD Mallorca fell to a disappointing defeat on Saturday afternoon against already relegated Gimnastic to end the hopes of automatic promotion. RCD Mallorca put in a dismal performance but almost managed to salvage something from the game with a 90th minute goal from Abdon Prats. However, they couldn’t hold out and moments later conceded the winning goal with only seconds left until the final whistle.
Prior to the game RCD Mallorca were in a buoyant mood following a run of 6 games unbeaten and back to back wins against promotion rivals Sporting de Gijon and Malaga. However, this game was a banana skin which RCD Mallorca well and truly fell for. Missing key players Dani Rodriguez and Antonio Raillo through suspension, playing away to an already relegated side is not as easy as it seems. Vicente’s Moreno and his former Gimnastic men found it a particularly unhappy return to Tarragona.
Off the Hook then Back on it Again
RCD Mallorca were let off the hook in spectacular fashion in the first half. For half an hour Mallorca had had the better of the play a number of half chances or positive openings and one poor miss from Salva Sevilla. However, they hadn’t capitalised and the referee gave them a sucker punch on 40 minutes, awarding a penalty to ‘Nastic for an incredibly harsh handball against returning captain Xisco Campos. Incredibly Gimnastic centre forward Ikechukwu Uche totally missed the target, something that happens rarely from the spot in modern football. Moments later though, rather than professionally control the game and see out the half like true promotion contenders, Mallorca allowed Gimnastic to get free down the left. From the resulting cross, Marc Pedraza made a hash of the clearance. The central midfielder deflected the ball away from the waiting Xisco Campos who had left Uche in order to win the ball. Pedraza’s poor header, instead of flying clear of the box, landed at Uche’s feet in the centre of the penalty area. The Nigerian did not make the same mistake twice as he slotted the ball past the helpless Manolo Reina.
Bold Selection Backfires
The goal scoring hero of the Malaga game, Leo Suarez, was preferred in the central midfield void created by Dani Rodriguez’s suspension. Dani’s boots are big ones to fill as he has been a crucial cog in the Moreno machine this season. The high energy box to box performances that he normally turns in were a far cry from what Suarez produced and he was withdrawn at half time for Abdon Prats. The Argentinian loanee has shown glimpses of class during his time on loan but has consistently failed to hold down a starting place when given the opportunity. Like all young players he will be inconsistent but what would help him most is a consistent position rather than being asked to play a variety of roles. He has looked at his best when playing in a wide position but has not performed well enough to take the shirt from Aridai or Lago Junior who have 18 goals between them this season.
Abdon Prats Strikes Again
Vicente Moreno has had considerable success with his substitutions of late, with players entering the field making an impact more often than not with goals and assists. Last week it was Alex Lopez with an injury time winner against Sporting de Gijon, the week before was substitute Abdon setting up fellow substitue Suarez for the winner in La Roseleda. This time it was Abdon Prats’ turn to get the goal, striking in the 90th minute after a truely dismal second half team performance. Approaching 90 minutes the Vermillion were incredibly only one goal down, thanks to the post and Manolo Reina. With time running out, Lago Junior crossed, substitute Alex Lopez flicked the ball on, and Abdon Prats controlled and finished on the swivel. RCD Mallorca celebrated and thought they were escaping from Tarragona with a point.
From Disappointment to Disaster
Moments on from celebrating Abdon Prats’ equaliser, RCD Mallorca managed to turn a disappointing draw into a disastrous defeat. I have complimented Mallorca on how professionally they have seen out a number of games this season but this was not one of those instances. With seconds remaining and when the team should be at their sharpest, Gimnastic had a throw in level with the Mallorca penalty area on their left. Experienced midfielder Salva Sevilla, usually so reliable, should have been taking up the position on the corner of the penalty area, stopping his rivals from cutting in to shoot. Instead, the Andulucian could be found arguing with the referee and out of position. He was only four or five yards wrong but that coupled with being slow to react due to speaking with the referee meant that another substitute, this time Kante, could cut in and fire home unchallenged past Manolo Reina. On such small margins games are won and lost at the professional level.
Away Troubles Return
After taking four points from their last two home games before their trip to Tarragona, it seemed on paper that Mallorca may have put their troubles on the road firmly behind them. However, watchers of the 90 minutes against Malaga and Numanica will have known that the frailties were still there, just waiting for the right time to return. In the absence of key personnel, they chose the worst possible time to return. This result against a relegated side will once again put strong doubts into the minds of Mallorca fans about their ability to win two play off ties, which will both involve an away leg.
Mallorca’s result, coupled with wins for Granada on Friday night and Albacete Balompie on Sunday, means that they now sit 7 points off second place. Even with Granada still to visit Son Moix, the chances of finishing second are now all but gone. The focus now becomes securing a play off position, something that every Mallorca fan would have been delighted with come the start of the season. The chances of them doing so did not diminish, despite their poor result in Tarragona. The points gap to 7th currently sits at 5, with Malaga still to play this evening against 8th place Real Oviedo. A draw would be the ideal result for Mallorca there. A draw is exactly the fate that became Cadiz and Deportivo La Coruna when they faced each other, again the ideal result for RCD Mallorca.
In light of favourable results below them it compounds the disappointment this weekend of not taking at least a point from Tarragona. The hundreds of Mallorca fans who travelled weren’t rewarded for their efforts. Whilst a win would have kept them in the pace for 2nd, it would also have made them almost a certainty for the play offs. Wherever Mallorca end up this season, they won’t have done it the easy way. The roller-coaster continues at home to Almeria at midday Spanish time next Sunday. They will be in last chance saloon for a play off spot, Mallorca will be hoping to strike the final nail into their coffin.