RCD Mallorca were comprehensively beaten by FC Slovan Liberec in their UEFA Cup third round first-leg match but the Spanish club still have a chance of reaching the next round.
Biagini gives hope
Whether Mallorca will be knocked out by the Czech club, like fellow Spanish side RC Celta de Vigo in the previous round, remains to be seen. The away goal by Leonardo Biagini could be a life-saver for Mallorca, but at 3-1 down they still have it all to do in the second leg in a fortnight’s time.
Took their chance
Had it not been for the domestic cup success of FK Viktoria Zizkov which freed an extra place in the UEFA Cup, Slovan, who finished sixth in the Czech 1. liga, would not even have been competing on Thursday night. Mallorca, it should be remembered, came desperately close to qualifying for the second group stage of the UEFA Champions League, finishing level on nine points with second-placed Arsenal FC.
First meaningful effort
Slovan seemed to be heading for a three-goal victory when Mallorca scored with their first meaningful effort on goal after a full hour. A corner by Alejandro Campano was met with a header from Fernando Niño and Biagini just managed to scramble the ball over the line.
All set-piece goals
A two-goal margin was about right and as if to illustrate the point both sides came desperately close to scoring again in the closing minutes. All the goals came from set-pieces and Sergio Kresic, the Mallorca coach, will be having a close look at the video replay of Slovan’s goals.
‘May pay dearly’
"All the goals followed after a free-kick or corner kick,” said Ladislav Skorpil, the Slovan coach. “We made them better, it is the reason why we won. But we lost too many balls in the second half and may pay dearly for the conceded goal."
The home side could not have got off to a better start, scoring after just three minutes and the fact that it was a messy effort would not have worried them at all. Petr Lukáš’s first-time shot to Václav Koloušek’s corner was untidiness personified, but it was enough to beat Leo Franco in the Spanish club's goal.
Slid the ball home
Mallorca never really recovered from that early setback and it was no surprise when they went further behind after 19 minutes. Again Koloušek - previously of Salernitana Sport – was the provider with a free-kick behind the Mallorca defence and Petr Johana raced in to slide the ball home.
Midfield battles won
The cold, heavy conditions and driving rain called for stout hearts and of those Slovan had plenty. They powered on, winning midfield battle after midfield battle. Certainly, Mallorca’s close-passing game seemed ill suited to the conditions, indeed almost futile.
‘Harsh to be two goals down’
"We were afraid that the pitch would not be to our advantage,” said Kresic. “It was harsh to be two goals down before we had warmed up, but we didn’t lose hope. We scored and could do it again. We still have a good chance to go through.”
Worst of the lot
There was a suggestion that Mallorca were making a better fist of it at the start of the second half, when they were rocked by another early goal. From a defensive point of view it was the worst of the lot. Whether or not he intended it, Johana’s low free-kick from 20 metres out went straight to the feet Roman Jun, who had time to bring it under control and take a couple of touches before despatching it past Franco.
Mallorca, who were missing striker Carlos Dominguez and midfield players Ariel Ibagaza and Vicente Engonga, scored home victories over both the top two sides in their UEFA Champions League group – Panathinaikos FC and Arsenal – but they were single-goal victories and that will not be enough this time.