In an early kick-off at Iberostar Stadium, Mallorca hosted Real Madrid in what was a gruelling, physical battle which Carlo Ancelotti’s men laboured to get anything going against a fired-up, well-drilled defensive side that aimed to clog space and hit Real’s high defensive line on the counter.
It should be noted right off the bat that Mallorca were very efficient defensively. As Carlo Ancelotti noted in the pre-game press conference, they are one of the best defensive sides in La Liga. Javier Aguirre’s men have the fifth best xGA in La liga, and have conceded less than one goal per game. Today was an example of how they do it — clogging the middle, tracking runners, and rotating quickly to pack the flanks when the ball goes out wide.
Offensively, they aren’t nearly as efficient, and are well below average. Today, they even showed that side as well as they created very little clear cut chances on the break, while their game-winning goal was an own goal, where Muriqi’s cut to the near post eventually deflects off of Nacho and past Andriy Lunin:
Mallorca didn’t need to do more than that, given how well they defended and how lost Real Madrid looked on offense. Part of the problem was that for large stretches of the game, there was a predictability to how they played: The ball would go out wide to Vinicius Jr who looked to dribble past multiple players. For one, he didn’t have any success getting past Pablo Maffeo who was excellent defensively, but even if he could, there were more players inside covering; and even then if he could get past all four, Real Madrid didn’t have a presence in the box as the bulk of the team’s front six were in deeper, central positions.
That changed a bit when Mariano Diaz entered the field, as he provided Real Madrid with a target and someone in the area that defenders Antonio Raillo, Giovanni Gonzalez, and Matija Nastasić had to think about. Real Madrid’s first real chance (apart from a Marco Asensio missed penalty in the second half) came from a cross into Mariano in the box in the 69th minute. Mariano later had another chance in the box, as did Antonio Rudiger from a David Alaba cross late.
It was clear that if Real Madrid were going to win this one, it would’ve been ugly, and it probably would’ve stemmed from crosses into the area as the best way to break Mallorca’s low block. The shift came too late.
This was a nasty, nasty game, it goes without saying. I lost count at how many fights broke out, and in particular Real Madrid’s left flank where Vinicius resided, was a nucleus of rough tackles and heated words. It was clear that, even from the first minute, the tension was going to boil over. It’s clear that Mallorca won both the mental and tactical battle today, and it’s pretty clear that Real Madrid’s players had a hard time getting their head into this one.
We’ll break this down in much more detail in the coming hours on the site.