López Caro was facing a nice
challenge, beating his ex-superior, in Mallorca, Gregorio Manzano. For this
reason, he moved around his team and brought on Raúl Bravo in place of the
injured Woodgate, and Baptista for the limping Guti. Only victory would count,
as Barcelona had won in Zaragoza, and as Valencia only got one point in Mestalla
and the second place was up for grabs. He had to beat a Mallorca team who had
absent players, but with their partial recuperation with a victory in Málaga,
though they were still in the relegation zone.
Water, water, and more water fell on Son Moix, which saw the comfortable
domination of the Whites during the first half of the game. Zidane and Baptista
came back to bring the ball through with Robinho always looking to do damage
from the wing. Ronaldo pressurized Prats, but he responded well (6th min).
Little by little, the Balearic players improved in the game, more in terms of
spirit than in playing, but Doni, coming in from the edge of the box almost gave
Casillas a nasty surprise. Later it was Arango with a direct free kick which
brushed the crossbar. López Caro asked for more movement and better options in
attack, as there were clear gaps and all that was needed was to take advantage
An implacable Sergio Ramos
And then Ramos made his appearance. He was doing an excellent job in defence,
stopping Arango and Pisculichi, when he decided to take a starring role in
attack. David Beckham, in a play that they had practiced a thousand times in
Valdebebas, sent the ball to his head. The Seville player, majestic in his
execution, put the Whites ahead (31st min). Half of the work had been done, but
Mallorca, under classification pressure, were obliged to pressurize Casillas.
The keeper, who in minute 35 beat his own best record for keeping goals out -357
minutes-, was shouting himself hoarse, as on two occasions Arango was on the
pint of leveling the score in two counterattacks on the left of the Whites
defence. They needed the halftime to recompose themselves, as despite having
been superior, they had suffered. Ronaldo, almost in extra time, once again
clashed with Prats.
This play finished off a first half that was marked by rapidity on the pitch,
with a lot of slip ups by the players, and the superiority, albeit minimal, of
Real Madrid. There was nothing much to speak of until minute 52. Then the
dynamic of the game changed when Pisculichi transformed a penalty committed by
Sergio Ramos –who with that booking will miss the derby - after an unfortunate
play in defence which ended with the fall of Tuni. Son Moix livened up and
spurred on the islanders. Now, the stars were Doni, Arango and company, who
wanted to take advantage of their momentum to make a comeback in the game.
Meanwhile, on the sideline, Raúl and Salgado were warming up.
López Caro kept on giving instructions, and it looked like his players had
recovered from the blow. They put on pressure further up the pitch, there was
better passing, and Prats saw his defence coming closer and closer to him. They
didn't wait around. First Míchel came on in place of Beckham (63rd min), and
later Raúl for Baptista (65th min), with Cassano warming up on the sideline. The
pace of the game waned, at the expense of the Whites, who had to probe the local
area more urgently. The rain worsened and started to take its toll. With fifteen
minutes to play, Mallorca were only looking for gaps on the wings when the
wingers went up to attack.
Arango scores in the middle of the downpour
Cassano was the last card for López Caro, who brought him on to play with three
forwards… and Iturralde did not award a foul on Casillas and Jonás sent a clear
chance to the post… which Arango followed up to get their second (80th min). The
Italian nearly equalized with a centre-shot which went to the crossbar. Madrid
wanted to win, but the game was in its dying moments. It was a setback in the
League as Valencia increase their lead by a point (-2) and Barça by three (-10).
Now, and with the break for internationals in the week, Madrid have to come back
and win the derby on Saturday.