During a week when Asian scientists have trained giant apes to play table tennis in Hong Kong – unfortunately a fight broke out between two dominant male competitors and a headline in the local paper read “King Kong Ding Dong at Hong Kong Ping Pong!” – Real Mallorca, with thoughts very much on Saturday afternoon’s huge six-pointer in the Son Moix against Granada (kick off 2pm) put up a valiant effort in the last 20 minutes but remain firmly in the relegation mix-up with four games left.
Coach Javier Aguirre, with Saturday’s relegation decider very much in mind, left out Baba and Abdon Prats from his initial starting XI and played five at the back. In the 18th minute a Brian Olivan cross found Fer Niño free at the far post but he missed the easiest of chances. Minutes later Barcelona opened their account. One of our defenders, Russo, left his position to chase Gavi, which left Memphis Depay alone against ’keeper Sergio Rico and the heavily tattooed Dutchman didn’t miss, 1-0. Far from reacting, Mallorca sank further into defensive mode and in the 25th minute a Busquets volley made it two, 2-0.
Barcelona’s strike force of Aubameyang and Memphis, each with individual actions, had shots way off target. This makeshift Mallorca line-up were now struggling to get out of their own half. Dani Rodriguez, a vital part in the scheme of things for Saturday, was taken off after he went down under the umpteenth hard tackle and on the 70th minute mark more changes were made. On came Take Kubo, Kang In Lee and Salva Sevilla and suddenly we looked a different team. The question now being asked was what would have happened if these three quality players had started proceedings.
In the 78th minute a lofted free kick from Salva Sevilla found “Captain Marvel” Antonio Raillo in the penalty area and he directed the ball past a helpless Terstegen, 2-1. The closing minutes saw us create a few half chances but we couldn’t execute the finish.
The worst Barcelona side in years won without breaking into a sweat, with Mallorca concentrating solely on defence. Against these so-called “big boys,” to sit back and let them come at you is suicidal and so it was on Sunday night; at least we weren’t humiliated. Nobody expected us to win at the Camp Nou, especially with the initial XI Aguirre put out.
Sunday’s game gave the impression that it only passed the hours before Saturday’s game against Granada. Everybody came through unscathed and it’s all hands to the pump as we prepare for the weekend’s transcendental encounter in front of a near-capacity Son Moix.