By Martyn Herman
PALMA, Spain (Reuters) – Real Mallorca made a dream return to La Liga with a 2-1 victory over Eibar at the Estadi Son Moix on Saturday less than two months after sealing back-to-back promotions back to the elite.
It is holiday season for Mallorcans but fans clad in the club’s red colours flocked to the stadium on a sultry evening in Palma in large numbers and were well rewarded.
Eibar had threatened to ruin the script when Paulo Oliveira cancelled out a superb early effort by Dani Rodriguez but the Portuguese defender then sliced into his own goal in the 74th minute as Mallorca got the victory their enterprising football deserved.
It is six seasons since Mallorca’s 16-year stay in the top flight ended during a period of financial meltdown.
They went close to going out of business and three seasons ago suffered the ignominy of relegation to the third tier.
With American Robert Sarver, owner of NBA team Phoenix Suns, buying the club for 21 million euros ($23.87 million) in 2016 and Canadian NBA Hall of Famer Steve Nash also coming on board, the good times look as though they might be on the way back.
It certainly felt that way on Saturday.
Respected coach Vicente Moreno has remained loyal to the players who helped Mallorca up via a dramatic playoff win over Deportivo La Coruna and they produced a vibrant display.
Midfielder Rodriguez accelerated clear in the fourth minute and produced a clinical finish to put the hosts ahead.
Croatian striker Ante Budimir should have extended the lead and when Oliveira slid home the equaliser early in the second half the ‘Los Bermellones’ fans fell quiet.
Lago Junior had chances to restore the lead but in the end it was Oliveira, the party-spoiler a few minutes earlier, who inadvertently sent the fans off into the night full of hope for the daunting task of survival.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)