Marco Asensio had a penalty saved as Real Madrid were beaten 1-0 at Mallorca on Sunday in another blow to their LaLiga title hopes.
A Nacho Fernandez own goal put Mallorca ahead in the 13th minute. The defender rose with forward Vedat Muriqi at the near post to head Dani Rodriguez's cross past goalkeeper Andriy Lunin, who had replaced the injured Thibaut Courtois in the warm-up.
With an hour played, Asensio's penalty kick was saved by Mallorca's Predrag Rajkovic -- after the keeper had brought down Vinicius Jr. -- to condemn Madrid to a defeat which risks them falling further behind Barcelona in the title race.
JUMP TO: Best/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments | Postmatch quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures
1. Well-drilled Mallorca scrapping their way to safety
Mallorca were expected to spend this season fighting relegation after narrowly escaping the drop by a single point last campaign. Instead, they've been punching considerably above their weight, and are now riding high in 10th place with a healthy 28 points, midway through the season. They're ahead of more established rivals like Sevilla, Valencia, Celta Vigo and Espanyol, and this win over Madrid is the latest for their collection, following consecutive victories over Villarreal and Atletico Madrid back in November.
This was a hard-fought victory, with just 26% possession, one shot on target and an xG of 0.2. Rajkovic's penalty save from Asensio was the highlight, but this was a victory for manager Javier Aguirre's expertly coached back five. At the other end of the pitch, Muriqi -- with eight league goals this season -- is a powerful presence. The goal initially credited to him was later recognised as Nacho's own goal, but Muriqi is a forward with the kind of presence that unsettles even the most experienced defenders.
Mallorca's season won't be defined by what they do against Madrid -- wins in the last month against direct rivals Valladolid and Celta were even more valuable -- but this was a day their noisy fans won't forget in a hurry.
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2. Vinicius Jr. on losing side of latest Mallorca battle
Another Madrid game with the spotlight on Vinicius Jr., through no real fault of his own. A bizarre feud has grown between the Brazil forward and Mallorca over the past year, starting with Madrid's win at Son Moix last March -- when he and Rodrygo both received bruising challenges from defenders Pablo Maffeo and Antonio Raillo -- and continued at the Bernabeu last September, when Mallorca accused Vinicius of showing opponents a lack of respect. This week, Raillo claimed Vinicius isn't a suitable role model for children.
The row was always going to boil over on the pitch, and so it proved, with a series of running battles involving Vinicius throughout the match. The first flashpoint came inside five minutes, with Rodriguez's challenge on the Brazilian, and referee Alejandro Hernandez was called upon to calm things down. The crowd were on their feet in the eighth minute when Vinicius brought down Maffeo, and not long afterward the same two players could be found pushing and shoving at a corner.
At times, Vinicius appeared to be trying a little too hard, as in one first-half attempt to dribble through the entire Mallorca defence. He went off at half-time complaining to referee Hernandez and holding the Madrid crest on his shirt up to the home fans as he walked down the tunnel. The second half saw Vinicius win the penalty that Asensio failed to convert, and there was still time for another clash with Raillo, too. No Madrid player will have felt this defeat more.
3. Courtois injury comes at a bad time
The alarm bells started ringing for Madrid even before this game kicked off at Son Moix, when goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois felt a groin injury during the warmup and had to withdraw from the starting XI, with Andriy Lunin, 23, coming in for his fifth league start of the season.
Lunin isn't a bad goalkeeper. He kept two clean sheets in his four appearances when Courtois was out last October, and started in Madrid's 3-1 Clasico win over Barcelona. But naturally, he's nowhere near Courtois' elite level, and everybody knows it. The impact on the team isn't directly related to his goalkeeping ability in itself, as much as the loss of Courtois' unbeatable aura.
As we await the results of tests to reveal how long the Belgium international can expect to be out, the short-term result is a team potentially without its two pillars of Courtois and Benzema -- also absent here -- as well as their best defender this season, Eder Militao. Next week's Club World Cup is one thing, but it's Madrid's Champions League round-of-16 first leg with Liverpool in two week's time which is on everyone's minds.
Best and worst performers
Predrag Rajkovic, Real Mallorca. His penalty save from Asensio, diving low to his left, secured the win for Mallorca.
Vinicius Junior, Real Madrid. Kept going throughout, despite the rough treatment he received.
Aurelien Tchouameni, Real Madrid. His return from injury was the only good news on a bad day for Madrid.
Marco Asensio, Real Madrid. A frustrating return to Mallorca, against his former club, culminating in the penalty miss.
Lee Kang-in, Real Mallorca. Had a very quiet afternoon.
Nacho Fernandez, Real Madrid. It was unlucky, but his own goal gave Mallorca the three points.
Highlights and notable moments
Nacho was eventually credited with an own goal for the opener.
Vedat Muriqi with the perfect looping header to put Mallorca ahead of Real Madrid 🔥 pic.twitter.com/K0D1TrUm9S— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 5, 2023
Marco Asensio missed a great chance to level the scores.
Marco Asensio's penalty is saved and Real Madrid are still behind 👀 pic.twitter.com/0RlbDAkSRb— ESPN+ (@ESPNPlus) February 5, 2023
After the match: What the players/managers said
Real Madrid defender Nacho: "It was very difficult. They defended very well all game. We lacked a bit of luck, but they worked hard, and it's true that we weren't clinical with our chances. It's a shame. We knew it was going to be difficult, with the kick-off time, we didn't have much rest, Mallorca are having a good season, we knew it would be tight, and obviously when they went ahead it got even more complicated."
On his own goal: "It happens in football, I went for it with my head and it went in. We had the penalty, a clear chance, we couldn't put it away, it's a shame, three lost points."
On Vinicius Jr.: "I think there's an atmosphere with this Vinicius issue now that doesn't help anyone, Vinicius, football, the fans... I think we all have to enjoy football, it's a beautiful sport, and leave the controversy and silliness to one side."
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti: "They scored early and then it was difficult, a lot of fouls, the game stopping a lot, players going down, but the team played until the end, we deserved to draw, we missed the penalty, we created chances in not much space, but we played our game.We need more mobility, getting in behind, it was hard to play in between the lines. The penalty was a ball in behind. But when the defence is deep it's hard to get in behind."
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
- Nacho scored his second career own goal (first since 2018 vs. Real Betis.)
- Real Madrid have missed three of eight penalties taken in LaLiga this season (two saved.)
- Mallorca goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic made his 8th penalty kick save (from 23 PKs faced) in the last four seasons across all club competitions. Seven of those were with Reims.
- Before the game, Real Madrid had scored 10 goals in the 80th minute or later. The most in LaLiga this season.
- Four of Real Madrid's seven all-time LaLiga losses on the road vs. Mallorca have been by score of 1-0 (1987, 2001, 2019, 2023.)
- It's been six hours and 30 minutes since Mallorca last conceded a goal at home.
Mallorca: Things don't get much easier as the side travel to Sevilla on Feb. 11 before hosting Villarreal the following weekend.
Real Madrid: A "break" for the Club World Cup in Morocco! Egypt's Al Ahly are the semifinal opponents on Feb. 8, with a potential final against Brazilian side Flamengo or Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal on Feb. 11. Madrid then return to a LaLiga home game against Elche on Feb. 15.