A superb Salva Sevilla strike slayed another play off challenger on Sunday afternoon as RCD Mallorca took another big step towards finishing in the top six and the promotion play off places. Cynical UD Almeria were punished for their indiscipline with the referee handing out 3 red cards to the visitors in a game that mathematically ended their slim play off hopes and saw coach Fran Fernandez leave his role.
Mallorca’s form returned to it’s bipolar ways on Sunday, lurching from terrible away from home in Tarragona last weekend, to excellent once more in front of the Son Moix faithful. Their cause was helped by the return of midfield maestro Dani Rodriguez and Antonio Raillo, who outside of suspension have played in almost every game this season. Pervis Estupiñan also returned to positive effect down the left hand side.
Despite the return of this trio it was from the boot of player of the month for April, Salva Sevilla, that the winning goal came. On minute 75, Sevilla stepped up to take a free kick on goal from the left hand corner of the box. He bent it over the wall with pace and venom, the ball dipping below the bar with goalkeeper Rene Hinojo only able to claw the ball into the back of his own net. Son Moix celebrated in relief in a game that looked like it would be so near yet so far for RCD Mallorca.
The tale of the game prior to minute 75 was one of missed opportunities and no end product. Lago Junior renewed his prolific partnership with Pervis Estupiñan and the return of the Ecuadorian immediately allowed Junior to advance further up the field and play in the opposition final third. Having a partner so close to him to create 2 vs 1 opportunities clearly helped him, but he, and his fellow Mallorcans were unable to find the killer final ball.
Aridai Cabrera was the chief culprit when it came to missing golden opportunities, clean through on goal once in each half. In the first half he dallied and was caught and dispossessed. His second half chance was even better and with just the goalkeeper to beat he went wider and wider to try to find an angle and in the end could only find the side netting.
Ante Budimir’s lean spell continued and he mustered just the one tame effort on goal, on the volley after bringing it down and spinning well. Another good opportunity ended in the Son Moix car park. Budimir’s all round game has lacked the bluster and hard pressing that we saw when he first arrived on loan. He set a high standard which others around him have maintained. Since then though he has dropped off that pace and has just one goal in the last 8 games.
Referee Lopez Toca had quite an influence on the game, although it would be unfair to say he decided it. RCD Mallorca were clearly the better side with UD Almeria only managing to trouble Manolo Reina with one tame shot from distance after they had fallen behind. However, UD Almeria had a very strong claim for a penalty turned down in the first half when Joan Sastre upended his man just inside the corner of the box. The right back had a below par game throughout on and off the ball.
Toca went on to show 3 red cards, all for UD Almeria, two during normal time and one for dissent after the final whistle. All three were deserved but seldom do you see a referee so happy to give red cards for two fouls. First right back Adri was given his marching orders for two poor tackles either side of half time. Then substitute Sergio Aguza, only on for 14 minutes, chopped down Leo Suarez as he ran towards the box and picked up a booking. As Mallorca tried to take the resulting quick free kick he threw himself in front of it without having been ten yards back and received his second yellow. I doubt that there is an instance of a player receiving two cards closer together in the history of football.
Toca was not popular with the Son Moix faithful and I am certain will not be a popular man with Almeria. There were howls of derision at regular intervals from the Son Moix crowd as he went through a period of the second half where he seemed to have swallowed his whistle. It was clear he had lost control of the game and the moments that followed with a double yellow card in stoppage time and angry Almeria players was were clear yet unsavoury signs of such.
As Salva Sevilla’s free kick hit the back of the net, Son Moix was overcome with a sense of relief. Relief that the three points would be staying on the island, relief that they had redeemed themselves after their horrible performance in Tarragona the week previously and relief that they had managed to put pressure on their rivals for the play offs.
Sunday’s lunch time result for Mallorca did indeed prove to put pressure on their rivals and what followed greatly strengthened their case for a top six spot. Malaga had already collected 3 points for their ‘win’ over Reus so matching that result was all important. Mallorca now sit 4th on 67 points, one behind Albacete who have a game in hand and 6 points clear of Deportivo La Coruna in 7th.
Cadiz then drew at home to leaders Osasuna, mathematically eliminating UD Almeria from the top six hunt. Whilst an excellent result for the home side, it does see them drop a further two points behind RCD Mallorca. Real Oviedo won and put themselves right into the mix for a top six spot but other than Almeria they were the team with the biggest points gap to Mallorca at the beginning of the weekend. Then, in the result of the day for Vermillion fans, Lugo managed to beat Deportivo La Coruna, Mallorca’s Monday night opponents next week, by a goal to nil. The result means that Mallorca face yet another side who are in a must win position against them. If Mallorca can win there next Monday then they will mathematically guarantee themselves a play off spot.
Dare to Dream?
For the biggest of dreamers who believe that second position is still possible, Albacete host Granada this evening. A win for Granada would mean Mallorca were 7 points behind them with 3 to play, an unassailable position in all but mathematics. Whilst that result would end Mallorca’s aspirations of top 2, it would mean 3rd was more achievable and they would have the home advantage in the 2nd leg of any potential play off games. However, if Albacete can win tonight then that will leave them level on 71 points with Granada. Granada will be visiting Son Moix in 2 weeks time with an opportunity to for the home side to close that gap.
All of this is speculation and before then Mallorca must do the business and pick up all three points at Deportivo. There are many hurdles to jump before the finish post, but if the Liverpool and Tottenham champions league semi finals have taught us anything then it is we should always dare to dream.