Mallorca gives itself a break in the table and puts Rayo in trouble after its first league victory (2-1) in the last five games, the fourth of the league tournament and the first of the second round that it celebrates in front of its fans, after of Vedat Muriqi’s agonizing goal in the 91st minute.
The six points advantage over Cádiz, which marks the border of relegation, allows Mexican Javier Aguirre’s team to face the return clash for a place in the final of the Copa del Rey to be held on the 27th with a little more calm. February at the Real Arena after the 0-0 first leg.
Almería coach Francisco Rodríguez’s Rayo, on the other hand, is not getting out of the slump after a new defeat in recent days. They still have a cushion -7 points- over the bottom of the table, but the team shows signs of having lost steam.
The clash to escape from the bottom of the table pitted two teams in great need of points. And that urgency was noticeable from the first minute with the first yellow card to Nastasic for pushing Kike Pérez at the entrance to the local area.
Rayo asked for a penalty, but referee Munuera Montero did not grant it; He also did not see a maximum foul in Lejeune’s grab of Muriqi shortly after.
The match lacked football quality in the first half, but there was plenty of physical wear and tear.
Very soon we began to see what the development of the actions was going to be: high pressure, risks reduced to a minimum and a keen eye to take advantage of any mistake by the rival.
The Mallorcan players faced the duel with Vedat Muriqi, not fully recovered physically from the injury that kept him out of the game for two months.
The Kosovar, however, was the only resource that Javier Aguirre had at hand due to the absence of Cyle Larin, suspended, and the problems that Abdón Prats had in commanding the attack.
In defense, with the usual line of five, the ‘Vasco’ chose Matija Nastasic to replace the injured Martin Valjent.
Rayo faced the event in a field usually adverse to their interests – 7 defeats and 2 draws in the last visits to Palma – with the attacking duo Sergio Camello-Kike Pérez.
Francisco recovered the Frenchman Pathé Ciss in the center of the field and left Raúl de Tomás and Radamel Falcao, two scorers in low hours, on the bench.
The clearest chance to score came from Isi Palazón almost at the end of the first half. The Murcian winger picked up a rebound in the vermilions’ small area, but was unsuccessful in the shot.
Mallorca went into the break with yellow cards for Nastasic, Dani Rodríguez and Muriqi, and a red one, which Munuera Montero – much protested by the Mallorcan fans – showed to the club doctor.
Aguirre brought on Abdón Prats after the break to reinforce the attack.
The ‘Vasco’ changed the system and decided to do without one of the five defenders, the full-back Nacho Vidal, to face the second period with a 4-4-2.
The variation was immediately noticeable with the goal from Antonio Sánchez, free of marking to take advantage of a bad clearance by Óscar Valentín in his attempt to head a cross into the area.
The Mallorcan midfielder’s goal calmed the locals’ game against a Rayo team – already with Trejo and Raúl de Tomás on the field – who went in search of an equalizer, even at the cost of leaving space behind.
The 1-1 came after another defensive error. The Uruguayan Gío González cut a ball that was going to goalkeeper Rajkovic, and the clearance reached Álvaro García, who leveled the score when his team was having the worst time.
Mallorca, with the debut in the League of Serbian Nemanja Radonjic, on loan from Torino in the winter market, was in a rush. But he ran into a very firm Rayo in defense, which only gave up with Muriqi’s impeccable header in the 91st minute.