RCD Mallorca announced themselves as serious promotion contenders on Saturday afternoon with a smash and grab victory over Málaga CF at La Rosaleda. The Vermillion proved their doubters wrong in rising to the challenge and pulling off yet another unexpected away victory when they needed it the most. Will RCD Mallorca fans now allow agree that is it time to talk promotion?
RCD Mallorca were made to work hard for their victory, absorbing a lot of pressure and playing well in the key moments. They also had their fair share of luck to help them along the way. Make no mistake though, this result was not a lucky one, it was a hard fought and well deserved victory for an organised, determined and tireless side.
Dives and Decisions
It wasn’t only RCD Mallorca who were on top of their game, so was Malaga’s young left winger Javier Ontiveros. Fresh from scoring two goals in their game against Alcoron last week, the winger picked up from where he left off, terrorising Mallorca’s right side. On two occasions he beat 3 men, cutting between them and moving into the box. Fortunately the referee was also on top of his game, waving away Ontiveros’ claims for a penalty after he threw himself to the ground. The only mystery that remained was why the referee hadn’t penalised either dive with a yellow card.
Misfiring Ante Budimir
RCD Mallorca were soaking up pressure but had their share of opportunities. The best chance of the half fell to the woefully out of form Ante Budimir. Just six yards out, the Croatian only had the goalkeeper to beat with the width of the goal at his mercy. It will go down as a save for Malaga CF goalkeeper Munir, but in truth the Croatian hit it straight at the goalkeeper, in the only place he couldn’t score. Mallorca were not made to rue this miss, but if they are to continue their promotion charge this is the kind of opportunity they cannot afford to turn down. Nobody expects a striker to score every opportunity that they get, but some are unmissable for a professional. Fortunately unmissable did not become unforgivable.
Chances and Counters
In the first half Malaga CF created a number of opportunities, with headers going straight at the well positioned Manolo Reina, or the home side missing the target completely. RCD Mallorca were successfully repelling attack after attack and hitting on the counter well. On one such counter attack Budimir laid it off to the outstanding Dani Rodriguez who swivelled and hit a surprise reverse shot from the edge of the box. Scrambling to his left, Munir managed to tip it around the post.
The Wise Words of Vicente Moreno
Time and time again this season Vicente Moreno has proven himself to be a top class coach at this level. Forced to sit this and the two previous games away from the touchline, the coach had some words of wisdom for his troops that clearly had an impact. The second spell was far more even, with Malaga CF making less dangerous entries into the Mallorca final third. Ontiveros continued to be a thorn in the Mallorca side, cutting in and firing just over. A player of his quality will always find opportunities, but clearly Gamez and Aridai had a better hold on him in the second half.
Moreno may yet decide to stay in the radio box in the stand. His absence from the touchline has brought two victories and a draw with two of those games away from home. It makes up a run of only 1 defeat in 11 games.
Manolo Reina has grown into this season and continued to improved. After a spell out of the side and a shaky return, he has really stepped up as captain and this performance was another to add to his string of captain’s performances. Off the back of his crucial penalty save last week, he was solid once more, equal to everything that was thrown at him in the land of his birth. Reina even managed to defy the laws of physics and incredibly tip the ball over from deflected shot that looked set to ruin the RCD Mallorca dreams. When the pressure was building he was equal to it and gave another captain’s performance.
Vicente Moreno knew how important a victory was and rolled the dice with 20 minutes remaining, bringing on Abdon Prats for the below par and booked Ante Budimir. He was closely followed by loanee Leo Suarez, still a man with something to prove having been a bit part player since his arrival in the winter window from Villarreal. The gamble paid of handsomely for Moreno, with Prats latching onto a ball down the side of the area from Salva Sevilla and cutting it intelligently back into the path of the onrushing Suarez who clinically finished from ten yards. Prats had managed to pick out the only available player in the box, with Suarez evading the attention of the Malaga defence with his intelligent movement. Suarez was euphoric and rightly so, realising some of his long displayed promise. RCD Mallorca hung on and the celebrations of the players then really begun.
Manager Vicente Moreno was typically dismissive of talk of the play offs even after this incredible victory. Whilst he is right to err on the side of caution, RCD Mallorca’s play off chances just got a whole lot stronger. Weekend results saw Cadiz CF drop points with a draw away to Rayo Majadahonda, Albacete Balompie lost to leaders Osasuna and Sporting Gijon drop two points at home. The gap to 7th position remains at 4 points after wins for Real Oviedo and Deportivo La Coruna. Crucially though, as RCD Mallorca climb to 4th, it will now require three sides to climb above them to push them into 7th position and out of the play offs.
The most optimistic of RCD Mallorca fans may also look to the fact that Granada are just 6 points ahead of them in 2nd position. With a difficult run in for Granada against promotion rivals and still to visit Son Moix, the door is not yet closed for automatic promotion. 3rd placed Albacete Balompie will fancy their chances ahead of Mallorca, but their defeat on Saturday to leaders Osasuna was damaging with two players sent off and now facing suspensions.
Time to Talk Promotion
Dreams of the top two will only become a reality if RCD Mallorca are able to repeat this performance and take points from their remaining away trips this season to Gimnastic, Deportivo La Coruna and Extremadura. Before all of that though, they will need to negotiate a tricky home fixture against Sporting Gijon and in turn end their outside chances of a play off spot. Whatever happens, RCD Mallorca fans must at the very least acknowledge that now it is time to talk promotion.