RCD Mallorca took themselves one step closer to finishing in the play offs with victory over CF Rayo Majadahonda On Saturday night. The Vermillion showed no complacency in the opening moments, scoring twice in the first twenty five minutes to relieve the promotion pressure on a windy Son Moix evening.
Anyone seeing the scoreline and watching only the first 45 minutes would have described the game as comfortable. Yet it was not all one way traffic and Manolo Reina had to be at his best to deny Hector Hernandez from the penalty spot with half an hour to go. Had that have gone in it could have been a very different story as the relegation threatened Rayo put the pressure on achieving 68% possession in the process.
In both halves RCD Mallorca created enough chances to be out of sight. Before opening the scoring, out of form Ante Budimir spurned a golden opportunity, shooting just wide. Moments later Lago Junior hit the post and both will have been relieved to see Aridai pop up and capitalise on a poor pass back to slot the ball home in the minutes that followed. The Rayo defender, David Andujar, headed weakly back to the goalkeeper allowing Aridai to nip in and finish.
RCD Mallorca continued to turn the screw, with Lago Junior running his tracking defender right the way back into the box before being bundled over. The referee duly awarded a penalty which was emphatically dispatched by the Ivorian. Mallorca were two up and cruising going into half time.
A game of two halves it was, but in terms of Mallorca’s promotion push we learnt very little from the second half. This was now an exercise in seeing out the game and securing three points.
With the chances, for both sides, in the second half it was a surprise that the game remained at 2-0. After Valjent was harshly penalised for handball from point blank range, Reina made his heroic penalty save from substitute Hector Hernandez with his trailing leg to keep the difference at two. Vicente Moreno then gave Stoichkov yet another opportunity to prove his worth from the bench. Unfortunately he gave little impression more than that of being a competition winner, fluffing his lines repeatedly in front of goal, including with an open goal from six yards.
Late in the game the referee flashed what is almost the customary red card for a second bookable offence. Oscar Valentine falling foul of the referee with an unnecessary tackle on Abdon Prats bringing an unnecessary red in stoppage time.
With Granada and Albacete picking up all three points earlier in the day and Sporting Gijón remaining unbeaten in 8 games with their draw at Gimnastic, the win for RCD Mallorca was crucial. What followed on Sunday was as predicted, more of the same with a win for promotion rival Cadiz. However, it was not a good weekend for those chasing the top six, with points dropped for Real Oviedo, Almería and most crucially Deportivo La Coruña.
These results left the top six adrift of the rest with 4 points separating RCD Mallorca and their opponents of next week, Málaga, from Deportivo La Coruña in 7th.
What Lies Ahead
The Vermillion are entering a crucial period in their race for the top six. Next Saturday they visit Málaga who they are currently tied on points with. The following week they host Sporting Gijón at Son Moix looking to inflict their first defeat since February. If they can take four points from those two games then that would set them up for a grandstand finish to the season. All is still possible, but the reality is that a play off spot is still far from within our grasp. With games to come against Granada and Deportivo La Coruña, four of RCD Mallroca’s remaining 7 games are against promotion rivals. Hot on the heels of the top six, Sporting Gijon still have a free three points to collect for their fixture against Reus.
Having negotiated a tricky two games against relegation threatened teams and come away with four points, RCD Mallorca should be pleased and are one step closer to a top six finish. However, now it is time to test our mettle against the big boys.