This is a result that, coming on the heels of a week in which Sevilla fans started to wonder about their chances for the Champions League, sort of stings a little more than it should. We played an away match to a tough team fighting for a Europa League spot. They were looking for revenge against a former coach. We were down to one first-team striker and missing our most dynamic player.
So in many ways we should be happy with the draw, especially in light of a pretty poor first half that saw us do very few positive things with the ball, and a whole lot of bad without the ball. Mallorca found it far too easy to send balls behind our back line, and thanks to VARAS and some poor finishing on their part they only scored twice. We were so dominated early on that Manzano brought Romaric off after only 35′, replacing him with Rodri. On the other end, our only shot on goal of the first half came thanks to a long ball played over the top that resulted in a Negredo penalty, and we made it to halftime miraculously only down 2-1.
In the second half we didn’t look all that much better in defense, but the key was that we played defense much less. We pressed higher up the pitch, held on to the ball better, and (most importantly) created lots of dangerous opportunities. Our defense still looked fragile in the back, and VARAS had to save our asses a few more times, but we definitely earned at least the point on the strength of several great opportunities and Rakitic’s strike–his fourth goal since arriving several short weeks ago. He’s been worth the paltry transfer fee on his goals alone; every single one of them has been either a tying or winning goal.
Finally, a note on Rodri. While it would have been nice to have Navas last night, Kanoute was easily the injured player we missed the most yesterday, and his absence was most acutely felt every time we won the ball and sent a pass through the air to around midfield, where Rodri often struggled to control the ball and hold up play as we transitioned to offense. You forget, watching Kanoute do that exact play with a silky touch, strong physical presence, and a simple square pass, how difficult and how important his role on the field is, and we really missed him yesterday. It may be that Rodri was being asked to play a role that’s not his forte, and I’m definitely still looking forward to seeing him grow into the first team, but his struggles today in the Kanoute role were evident almost every time he had the ball. Here’s hoping he gets more chances to shine, and if there’s a style at which he’s more likely to excel, here’s hoping he gets to play there.
And, again: on the plus side we’re in sole possession of 5th place with only seven matches to go. CL got a little bit more far-fetched than it was last week, but EL became a much stronger likelihood. ¡A POR ELLOS!