RCD Mallorca turned the form book on it’s head with the most unlikely away result of the season in the most difficult of locations. Unbeaten at home in the league this season until today, UD Las Palmas’ play off push under new boss Pepe Mel was halted abruptly as RCD Mallorca fly high in the Canaries. The victory for RCD Mallorca was not only season defining, it also all but kills the play off dreams of one of their challengers.
The result sees RCD Mallorca return to the top six promotion places, ahead of Cadiz on their head to head results, having taken 4 points from the South Coast side. Such small issues could prove to be decisive come the end of the season. What is certain is that now the club must stop speaking of 50 points for survival and start to aim for the sky to see who they can chase down.
A positive mind set is exactly how RCD Mallorca set about the game from minute one. Seldom this season have we seen the Vermillion go about things in such an attacking way from the off away from home. Their normally cautious stylehas seldom brought rewards on the road and a change has long been needed. Whether it was shape, selection or mentality, a change was clear for all to see throughout.
Vicente Moreno picked a side that looked as if it could mix attacking flair with defensive battle and hard work. Baba kept his place in the side, despite Marc Pedraza’s return from suspension, and Leo Suarez made only his second start in a RCD Mallorca shirt. The guile of Suarez helped to retain possession early on and his positive play gave opportunities for others around him. It took only 3 minutes for Suarez to register an attempt on goal, the type of positivity that has been lacking throughout the season away from home.
However, despite their good start, RCD Mallorca quickly shot themselves in the foot. With CD Las Palmas’ first meaningful attack they made their way down the left flank and Raul Sastre inexplicably dived in when the ball was not there to be won. With all the time in the world, Alberto De La Bella curled a low cross into the box and Rafael Mir, returning from injury, flicked the ball between his legs and up over the top of a helpless Reina. Whilst Sastre gifted a free cross, Martin Valjent should really have been much tighter to his man and RCD Mallorca had surrendered another soft goal away from home.
All of the early positive momentum seemed like it would be lost with UD Las Palmas’ first notable attack. However, this time the narrative was to be different. There seems to have been a change in mood of this team. No longer do they sit back and wait to be beaten, now they are on the front foot and take the game to their opponent, not only at Son Moix, but also away from home.
The player leading the charge, as he has so often of late, was left back Pervis Estupiñan. Driving forward and latching onto a pass, Estupiñan was sythed down, leading to a yellow card for Fidel. The resulting free kick was cut back to Estupiñan on his wrong foot, his total mishit fell to Ante Budimir who dispatched it only to see the linesman’s flag up as he wheeled away.
Once bitten twice shy, the linesman would play his part moments later as RCD Mallorca fired themselves level. Lago Junior lost the ball on the left and then won it back immediately, fed Estupiñan who under-lapped him on the inside and drove between two defenders into the box. With the goal at his mercy he passed to Budimir just to his right who slid the ball emphatically home. Replays showed that Budimir was clearly off-side but with the referee’s assistant napping, Budimir took full advantage.
The sides were level and I think even the most passionate UD Las Palmas fan would have to admit that Mallorca deserved their goal, despite the injustice they will feel over the offside. RCD Mallorca had been more attacking in first 20 minutes of this game than the in the last 5 away games combined and seemed really to be chasing the victory at this crucial point of the season. For so long I have longed for RCD Mallorca to play this way away from home and make use of their direct attacking instincts, now we were seeing it.
UD Las Palmas came back into the game with Mir proving a handful for defenders. Following his opening goal, he was full of confidence and shrugged off Raillo before forcing a save from Manaolo Reina from a tight angle. Salva Sevilla would then find himself in a similar position, 1 v 1 with the goalkeeper after Baba found him with a precise pass. From a narrow angle Sevilla decided to shoot straight at the goalkeeper rather than pass for a tap in. Often a silky player and the one to make the side tick, Sevilla’s decision making has been poor in key moments in recent games.
There is time for one last good chance in the half and it falls to UD Las Palmas and once again it is Mir, the danger man, capitalising on the Mallorcan mistakes. Valjent slips at a crucial moment giving Mir all the time in the world, but Reina narrows the angle well and smothers the ball.
The half time whistle blows with the scores level and it marks easily the best 45 minutes for RCD Mallorca away from home this season. The performance has been more positive than any other and leaves the fans with high hopes for the second half, and they won’t be disappointed.
After the break, Pepe Mel seems to have given his UD Las Palmas side a strong team talk at half time as they come out of the traps quickly, pushing forward and creating chances almost at will at the beginning of the half. RCD Mallorca stay resolute though with Antonio Raillo marshalling the defence well.
As Mallorca push forward, moves seem to be more and more frequently breaking down with Lago Junior. The forward looked out of sorts again tonight, dribbling off the field and not running with the intent he showed early season. However, the form of the team is no longer carried by just his goals which means when he does return to form this Mallorca side has the potential to really go places.
Aridai Cabrera replaces Leo Suarez on 60 minutes and instantly he is into the game, beating his man and crossing. Then, moments later, he picks it up, driving in, plays in Budimir who shoots for the corner and the goalkeeper tips it around the post. This is the best chance of the half and only an excellent save from Raul Fernadez stops RCD Mallorca from taking the lead. Aridai’s introduction from the bench has given Mallorca the spark they need just the right time.
The game begins to open up and is more end to end. Sevilla plays it wide to Lago, who cuts in and shoots and it is plucked out well by the goalkeeper. Both sides want to win the game, something you don’t always see in the Segunda division.
Mallorca’s achilles heel almost comes back to haunt them with the game closing in. A free header in the box for UD Las Palmas is headed powerfully goal bound until it is plucked out of the sky by Reina with the ball making its way to the top corner. A terrific save at a crucial point of the game from the captain.
Abdon Prats replaces Budimir and continues the hard work and tireless play of the Croatian. This is the minimum standard for any centre forward and Moreno has made a clear statement to Alex Lopez with his exclusion from even the bench this week after a lacklustre performance last time out.
Mallorca’s big chance arrives and it falls to the feet of Salva Sevilla. Totally free in front of goal, the veteran takes one touch too many and blazes over with the goal gaping. The referee spares his blushes by bizarrely giving a free kick against him for handball. Sevilla cannot believe it and it is unclear whether his disbelief is aimed at the referee’s decision or his inability to hit the target.
Fortunately, the play maker redeems himself when seconds later he pings a free kick from midfield and both Abdon and Raillo bear down on it just on the edge of the UD Las Palmas box. The most unexpected result is delivered in the most unexpected way as Raillo rises high and flicks it home to score a rare goal for the side from a set piece. Clearly delighted wit his rare goal, the centre back tucks the ball under his shirt and sucks his thumb, a sign that there may be a mini Raillo on the way.
Now the question is, with 15 nervous minutes remaining, can RCD Mallorca hold on? From a winning position, Mallorca had surrendered leads against Tenerife and 9 man Cadiz already in 2019. But hold on they did. Moreno managed the game expertly, bringing on Pedraza for Dani Rodriguez and the remaining minutes were played out in the half of the Canarians, rarely did they get anywhere near the penalty area of Mallorca.
On the final whistle the players celebrated, and so they should. A deserved victory brought about through positivity on the ball from RCD Mallorca. A most unexpected result to Mallorcan fans, none more than myself.
Mallorca fly high in the Canaries, returning to the top six and a play off space as we approach the beginning of the end of the season. Their away hoodoo has been broken just at the right time and if they didn’t before, then the Vermillion supporters will dare to dream of a play off place and, maybe, just maybe, a place in La Liga next season.