Cup competitions can throw up the unlikeliest of footballing match-ups and, typically, the craziest of outcomes. The smallest golf equipment can go international in a single day whereas the superpowers of the recreation could be lowered to the subsequent rubble that follows a defeat.
In 2009, Manuel Pellegrini took his Real Madrid aspect to their lowly neighbours Alcorcón in the hope and expectation of progressing to the Copa del Rey spherical of 16. What the third tier membership produced subsequent would go down as certainly one of the most surprising outcomes in Spanish soccer historical past.
The small metropolis of Alcorcón is located roughly 20km south-west of the Santiago Bernabéu and is house to only over 150,000 individuals. The world is understood regionally for its archaeological belongings, boasting high-quality clay that the residents used to work into jugs and pots. The business was the important supply of revenue for Alcorcón and options prominently on the metropolis’s coat of arms.
Their clay enterprise was current centuries earlier than a soccer membership was based in 1971. Agrupación Deportivo Alcorcón spent their first three many years in Spain’s regional divisions, sometimes scraping into the Copa del Rey first or second rounds. A historic promotion in 2000 catapulted them as much as the third tier for the first time, the place dealing with Real Madrid’s B group, Castilla, went from a dream to a actuality.
Little did little Alcorcón know that these video games towards Castilla in entrance of simply lots of of spectators can be gown rehearsals for what would come at the finish of the first decade of the 21st century. Whereas Alcorcón have been quietly making their approach in the early 2000s, Real Madrid assembled a staff of superstars able to taking over any workforce in the world.
Zinedine Zidane’s beautiful volley introduced them their ninth Champions League trophy in 2002 earlier than three LaLiga titles adopted by 2008. A yr later they made Cristiano Ronaldo the costliest participant in soccer historical past, breaking the document that they had set earlier that summer time for Kaká. World report transfers and trophies have been regular for Real Madrid. Regular for Alcorcón, nevertheless, was a mid-table end in the Segunda B.
Alcorcón have been denied promotion to Spain’s second tier in the 2008/09 season after a devastating defeat to Irun in the playoff remaining. That disappointment was quickly forgotten as they reached the third spherical of the Copa del Rey for simply the second time in their historical past courtesy of a 2-Zero win towards Palencia.
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Los Alfareros got here from behind at Lagun Onak to progress into the spherical of 32 and win an opportunity to go up towards the heavyweights of Spanish soccer. Having not confronted a membership from Spain’s top-flight earlier than, Alcorcón have been drawn towards Real Madrid in the absolute best end result for the membership, no less than financially. On the sporting aspect, the draw spelt inevitable elimination.
The cup’s guidelines modified the dynamic of the competitors after the third spherical. As an alternative of the commonplace single knockout recreation, the tie can be unfold throughout two legs. That meant that Real Madrid would go to the Estadio Santo Domingo, a floor that held simply three,000 individuals, they usually’d go there for the first leg.
The stadium’s capability was elevated to four,000 through the use of momentary seating, giving no room for manoeuvre when you have been sat in your seat. The old style stands have been steep and near the pitch, creating a singular environment, with followers feeling as if they have been concerned with each shot and deal with.
Whether or not it was naivety or complacency, Manuel Pellegrini opted to area a few of Los Blancos’ fringe gamers however stored an skilled assault in place. Álvaro Arbeloa, Guti, Raúl and Karim Benzema all walked out in entrance of an exhilarated house crowd as starters, whereas Champions League winner Jerzy Dudek was deployed between the sticks. Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaká missed the recreation by means of damage whereas Iker Casillas was rested.
Because it typically is with decrease league golf equipment, Alcorcón’s line-up included those that hadn’t made it at the prime golf equipment. Defender Borja Gómez, midfielder Ernesto and striker Borja Pérez had all spent part of their footballing upbringing at Real Madrid, whereas goalkeeper Juanma and defender Nagore used to reveal the badge of Atlético. Esteban Granero began in midfield for the guests and greeted a few of his former teammates and pals in yellow with a smile.
Nothing was pleasant about the approach the residence aspect began the recreation. They didn’t appear overawed or star-struck – they needed to win. Dudek was referred to as into motion early on when two photographs from distance got here his method. If his workforce was caught off guard by Alcorcón’s quick begin, he definitely wasn’t, parrying the first behind for a nook earlier than tipping a looping effort over the bar.
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Real Madrid’s former youth participant dealt the first blow after 16 minutes. Borja collected the ball on the fringe of the space, shifted it previous Mahamadou Diarra, and slotted it into the far nook. These in the seated areas have been on their ft as the entire floor shook with euphoria. That they had waited 28 years for this and have been going to have fun it as greatest they might.
The expectation for Pellegrini’s aspect to realize management of the tie and cruise previous their decrease league opponents nonetheless stood robust however, in the eyes of the house crowd, they now believed. Simply six minutes later, Sergio Mora was discovered in area on the proper of the Real space. The previous Benidorm and Alcoyano midfielder fizzed a low cross throughout aim and a determined Arbeloa managed to stab it previous Dudek and into his personal internet.
Whereas the jubilation unfold in the stands, these watching in the dugouts might barely consider it. Juan Antonio Anquela had seen his staff go 2-Zero up towards the nine-time European champions as Pellegrini sat, stony-faced, wishing the floor would swallow him up. Florentino Pérez’s beady eyes have been forming an almighty shadow in the administrators’ field. It was about to get lots worse.
Juanma stored out Granero and Rafael van der Vaart earlier than Alcorcón struck the publish at the different finish. Six minutes earlier than half-time, Diego Cascón raced into the space, picked his head up and noticed Ernesto, regardless of the minute measurement of the pitch, in acres of area on the left. Cascón slid the ball over to the former Real youth participant who picked out the backside nook to take Alcorcón’s extraordinary result in three. The referee blew his whistle to provide everybody 15 minutes to pause and assume; to think about that they have been witnessing historical past unfold.
Reviews of a bust-up between Pellegrini and Guti emerged after the recreation and have been first signalled by a half-time change that noticed Guti changed by Fernando Gago. Pellegrini’s substitution couldn’t halt his staff’s loopy capitulation as Borja added a fourth shortly after the restart. A large free-kick resulted in carnage in Dudek’s space, ending with Borja stroking the ball previous him and discovering the internet for his second and, simply perhaps, placing Alcorón out of sight.
Whereas one man went off celebrating, one other wiped his forehead in the stands. Even with a four-goal lead, a clear sheet was very important in giving Alcorcón any probability of progressing over two legs. Marcelo and Ruud van Nistelrooy, who had watched their teammates fall aside from the bench, have been thrust into the motion.
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The latter examined Juanma shortly after his introduction, bringing a save from the former Atlético man at his close to submit. A robust proper glove pushed away one other Van Nistelrooy strike as the former Manchester United ahead, in a state of shock, couldn’t discover the internet. All of a sudden, the temper had modified in the Alcorcón workforce. They’d gone from producing attacking brilliance to defending their very own aim with a mixture of bravery and desperation.
They managed to protect their lead via an array of blocks, tackles and clearances earlier than the referee blew his whistle to deliver an finish to Real Madrid’s darkest hour. The house trustworthy, whose pleasure couldn’t be contained, flooded the pitch and never solely mobbed their heroes, but in addition the stars they’d watched week in, week out on the tv, nonetheless with a component of disbelief.
Whereas the post-mortems have been being written at the Bernabéu the subsequent day, the individuals of Alcorcón nonetheless had their heads in the clouds. Their ft had barely touched the floor by the time they visited Real Madrid’s well-known stadium two weeks later. Whereas Ronaldo was nonetheless affected by damage, the likes of Pepe, Kaká and Gonzalo Higuaín got here into the aspect as Real seemed to overturn the substantial deficit.
A turnaround right here would have been much less of a shock than Alcorcón’s residence hammering. Juanma proved to be the hero for the guests as his saves, with the assist of the woodwork, stored Real Madrid’s family names out till the 81st minute. Van der Vaart managed to squeeze a shot previous Juanma however it turned out to be only a comfort as Alcorcón held agency to say the biggest outcome in their historical past.
And so, the little membership on the hill had toppled the giants from the valley under. Since that well-known night time, Alcorcón have made their inaugural step into the Segunda División and expanded the Santo Domingo to deal with 7,000 spectators. Real Madrid at the moment are 13-time European champions having loved one among the most fruitful silverware spells in membership soccer historical past.
Nevertheless, regardless of how full your trophy cupboard is, some scars run deeper. In the aftermath of that damaging defeat, Florentino Pérez could have had sleepless nights. Since then, he has labored tirelessly to make sure nothing like that ever occurs once more so. He expelled complacency from the partitions of the Bernabéu and put in a work-ethic that has exceeded all else. In the finish, it appears, it labored out nicely for all.
By Billy Munday @BMunday08