«Si se Puede, Si se Puede» rang around Son Moix on Sunday night at the final whistle as RCD Mallorca won in the most dramatic fashion with a late late Alex Lopez goal. The strike in the 95th minute of the game secured a deserved 2-1 victory and all but ended the play off hopes of Real Sporting de Gijon. Most importantly for RCD Mallorca, the result in the electric Son Moix atmosphere has catapulted them right into contention for the second automatic promotion spot.
Over 10,000 RCD Mallorca fans made their way to Son Moix in the beautiful sunshine and were well rewarded with not only the result they were hoping for, but also with a convincing performance. The match wasn’t without it’s scares though and Sporting Gijon contributed well to the contest as a whole. The higher than usual attendance meant it was standing room only in the aisles behind the goal and this brought an improved atmosphere from all 4 sides of the ground.
Gijon could have taken an early lead when a free kick was floated into the box and, with no RCD Mallorca man near to it, the centre back Babin failed to make contact. Gijon were defending deep but counter attacking at a lightning speed and almost caught RCD Mallorca out once or twice but lacked the necessary accuracy.
RCD Mallorca were playing well though and attacking more than normal, having 65% possession of the ball over the entire game, an unusual statistic for them this season. The opening goal came when an Aridai pass deflected to Ante Budimir who was judged to be onside. He didn’t hesitate and scored, leaving it to the officials to discuss and the Gijon players to furiously debate. The Croatian striker will have been mightily relieved to have got a goal after going 6 games without one. Strikers live and die on their confidence and Budimir will be crucial going into the final five games and any possible play off.
RCD Mallorca couldn’t stay ahead though. Trying to play the offside trap and stood with their hands in the air, Sporting Gijon hit back. Evading the flag of the referee’s assistant, Uros Djurdjevic fired home past Reina from a tight angle into the roof of the net. The goal was against the run of play, the finish emphatic, but Reina really could have done better.
At the break RCD Mallorca went in having been the better side in a relatively even game. What was to come in the second half was something Son Moix will remember for a long time. A dominant performance creating a number of good opportunities which finished in the most positive and dramatic fashion.
Disallowed Goals and Penalty Claims
RCD Mallorca would be excused for feeling the officials didn’t want them to win on Sunday. They had two goals disallowed, one for offside and the other for a foul on the goalkeeper, and two clear penalty claims turned down. Opposition fans will point to the fact that Ante Budimir’s opening goal was clearly offside, so perhaps it went some way to evening out that incident.
Moreno Rolls the Dice Again
Vicente Moreno rolled the dice with the substitutions and again came up trumps. With Sporting Gijon putting men behind the ball and proving a tough nut to crack, changes needed to happen. Following Leo Suarez and Abdon Prats making an impact off the bench in recent games, it was the almost forgotten Alex Lopez’s turn to come in from the cold. Following his petulant walk from the pitch in his last appearance against Real Oviedo in March, he had disappeared from the squad. Back on the pitch and his impact was instant, drawing what should have been a penalty for a foul on him and then scoring sparking euphoric scenes in the crowd and on the pitch with his 95th minute goal.
Moreno has shown he is not shy to take a risk and make a change to force the win. On Sunday his move was to risk defeat by taking off Marc Pedraza, a defensive midfielder, and bringing on another striker to work with Abdon. His introduction of Abdon also almost paid instant dividends, setting up Aridai for a one against one with his very first touch.
Not all Good News
Despite the result and performance, it was not all good news for RCD Mallorca. Dani Rodriguez received a booking for dissent in the second half that takes him to five bookings for the season. He will now sit out of Saturday’s away game at bottom side Gimnastic, a game in which the hosts could be mathematically relegated in if they lose. Antonio Raillo was also booked and reaches ten bookings for the season, meaning that RCD Mallorca will have to rely on their strength in depth in the dressing room. Lago Junior also took a knock during the game and although he completed the 90 minutes, he looked to be struggling and is a doubt for the weekend.
Another weekend in the Segunda brought another set of surprising results. As I said in Friday’s preview, rivals for the top six were facing each other this weekend, points would be dropped and a win could really catapult RCD Mallorca up the league. Of our rivals for the top 6, only then 7th Deportivo La Coruña could win. Granada could only draw with Real Oviedo and Albacete’s failure to beat Numancia at home is a huge blow to their top two ambitions. Cadiz host Malaga tonight and both cannot win so more points will be dropped there.
The end result is that RCD Mallorca now sit 4 points off Granada in 2nd, with Granada still to visit Son Moix on the penultimate weekend of the season. Positive results for RCD Mallorca between now and then would really put the pressure on for Granada. For the more pessimistic Mallorca fans still looking over their shoulders, it is 6 points to Malaga who now sit in 7th place. They kick off against Cadiz at 9pm Monday.
Now to be Favourites
RCD Mallorca have been the underdog all season, the plucky promoted team defying all of the odds. Moreno has played this card well and been a psychological genius with his squad. Now though, RCD Mallorca go into two games where they will be seen as clear favourites, away to as good as relegated Gimnastic, and then home to mid table Almeria. The tag of favourites brings a different pressure, but win those two and the finishing line and automatic promotion will truly be in sight. Like they Son Moix crowd, they need to believe that «Yes, you can».