IBAGAZA INSPIRES MALLORCA TO VICTORY OVER BETIS

Matthew O'Connor

A fantastic display by Ariel Ibagaza on Sunday inspired Mallorca to their first win in eight games with victory over a disappointing Real Betis side 2-1. The three points crowned a great week for the Islanders and moved them up to 13th place in the league. After Wednesday's semi-final Copa del Rey defeat of holders Deportivo, Mallorca would have been forgiven for suffering a Cup hangover against Betis. That was not the case though and Ibagaza raced straight out of the blocks at the Betis defence only to be taken down inside the area after just 30 seconds. Walter Pandiani handed a perfect start to Mallorca when he stepped up to blast the spot-kick home for his 11th league goal of the season. Ibagaza, scorer of the goal that sent Mallorca into the Cup final, was a man on a mission. He hunted down every ball and was at the heart of everything the Islanders created. But, as has happened far too often this season, Mallorca's lead evaporated thanks to a Betis sucker punch in the 20th minute. Mallorca midfielder Harold Lozano made a rare mistake on the edge of the area allowing talented Brazilian winger Denilson, the Andalucians' best player on the night, to float in a beautifully weighted cross that found an unmarked Fernando whose header just evaded Leo Franco. The remainder of the half turned into a scrappy midfield battle with few chances for either side. Mallorca settled the game in the sixth minute of the second-half thanks to another piece of Ibagaza skill. The tiny Argentine whipped in a perfect free-kick allowing Lozano to make amends for his earlier mistake by glancing the ball into the Betis goal. Coach Gregorio Manzano was delighted after the match. “We needed a win in the league and we have taken a very important step forward towards our main objective, which is avoiding relegation,” he said. Mallorca are now five points clear of the relegation zone and just seven points off a place in Europe making next week's trip to Pamplona to face Osasuna of vital importance. Unfortunately they will be without the suspended Ibagaza, while Pandiani, Alvaro Novo and Carlitos are all doubtful after taking knocks during the match.

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