MADRID - For two sweet minutes, Real Mallorca dared to dream of Champions League football next season - until the cruellest twist of fate snatched it away.
After beating Espanyol 2-0 in their final match of the season, the players watched the end of Sevilla's game at Almeria on their stadium's big screen.
With 10-man Sevilla locked at 2-2 and a huge bottle of champagne ready to be cracked open, it suddenly went horribly wrong as Sevilla snatched a 94th-minute winner.
Gathered around the centre circle in anticipation, Real Mallorca's players sunk to their knees in disbelief as Sevilla took the fourth and final Champions League spot.
Financially troubled Mallorca had begun Saturday a point behind Sevilla in fifth place with the two games being played simultaneously.
"I would have preferred Sevilla to have arrived at the 90-minute mark winning their game," Mallorca coach Gregorio Manzano told reporters.
"That way we would have finished with the feeling that we could never have achieved it."
"The games started at the same time but finished with two minutes difference, and these two agonising minutes of happiness turned into sadness at the end."
"It's the most unjust thing that could have happened to us all season," added Manzano after being denied an unlikely place in the Champions League.
"Two minutes where our players, standing on the pitch, watched Sevilla score the goal and you can't describe the feelings. Two cursed minutes."
Manzano insisted fifth place and a berth in next season's Europa League was something the modest club should still be proud of.
"It shouldn't be a night of despair," he said. "We have written our name in capital letters on the podium for the 2009-10 season."
Manzano transformed Mallorca into the surprise package of the season and they spent all 38 weeks in the top six of La Liga.
This despite a financial and institutional crisis raging through the early part of the campaign, and with a squad shorn of leading lights Jurado, Juan Arango and David Navarro last summer.
Mallorca last appeared in the Champions League in the 2001/02 season and a return would have helped ease their cash problems and also perhaps made it easier to hang on to the sought-after Manzano, whose contract runs out in June.comments