Like the Old Days
from Charles Nutter
Real Mallorca turned back the clock with a brilliant display last Saturday 12th January against old foes Deportivo la Coruna in Palma. The two sides regularly faced off against each other for many seasons in La Liga and now both find themselves in the Spanish Second Division. The islanders started off on the front foot with “Silver Fox” Salva Sevilla back to his imperious best pulling the strings in midfield. Head coach Vicente Moreno left fullback Fran Gamez on the bench and recalled Joan Sastre. This was something of a shock as Gamez has been outstanding this season. To be fair, Sastre and fellow full back Estupinan supported the forwards really well and put in some telling crosses. Estupinan is on loan from Watford and has taken time to settle in but is now looking like a quality player. The lack of a quality striker was evident in the Mallorca front line. Alex Lopez works hard but is never going to be a regular scorer. He was replaced in the second half by the enigma known as Abdon Prats. He can be completely anonymous in one game and be a real threat in another; this was one of his better games as his introduction upped the tempo for his side. Aridai came on subsequently and was a real goal threat. On 77 minutes Lago Junior picked up the ball in the centre circle and drove straight at the visitors’ defence before unleashing a fierce and unstoppable shot which flew into the net leaving the goalkeeper stranded. Shortly afterwards Abdon beat four men and played the ball in for Aridai who struck the side netting. That would have been an equally world class effort. Then came the controversy as Deportivo defied convention. A Mallorca player went down injured and one of his colleagues put the ball out of play. It is an unwritten rule in these situations that the opposition throw the ball back to the other team. Depor did not do this and went on the attack which led to howls of derision and cat calls from the home fans. Despite a late scare when Raillo struck his own post with a clearance Mallorca were worthy winners.
That game was the halfway stage in the league and Mallorca have 33 points and in eighth place in the division just 2 points off a play off place and 6 off automatic promotion. If they gain another 33 points in the second half of the season then Mallorca will definitely be in the promotion shake up. One cloud on the horizon is that coach Moreno is refusing to confirm that he will stay on the island next season. He is contracted until 2020 but that counts for little. In one and a half seasons he has brought an organisation and work rate into the team. His accomplishments have not gone unnoticed in La Liga with Valencia apparently casting envious looks in his direction.
There has been no movement in the winter transfer market so far but there are rumours that Mario Suarez is open to a return to the club. He played for Mallorca for two seasons before embarking on a career with Atletico Madrid and Fiorentina and is a high class midfield performer and would be a perfect foil for Sevilla.