Legendario MirandésPosted: March 30, 2012
“The magic of the cup” is often a phrase that was coined to describe the unpredictable nature of the FA cup in England. It is seen as a unique competition where there are upsets not equalled or bettered anywhere else. However, a small Segunda B club from the province in Castilla y León in the north of Spain proved that rain in Spain isn’t the only miracle that occurs on the Iberian Peninsula.
Since their founding in 1927, Mirandés have fluctuated between the 3rd and regional divisions in Spain. They have never played a game higher than the third tier of Spanish football, yet the 2011/12 Copa Del Rey saw them rub shoulders with the cream of La Liga and enjoy, without the doubt, the best season the club have ever had.
It all started on the 31st of August when ‘Los Rojilltos’ made the short journey to ‘El País Vasco’ to take on fellow Segunda B side Amorebieta. The game at the Municipal De Urritxe was a tight affair. Both sides could have won, but it was Roberto Iván Agustín Suarez who put Mirandés into the hat for the next round. The next tie was played a week later, a home tie at The Anduva stadium in Burgos, where they ran out comfortable 3-1 winners against Linanes. Another 3-1 home success against Logrones ensured that Mirandes would be in the draw for the next round and thus making them eligible to play one of the sides from The Primera Liga who had qualified for Europe. The journey was only beginning for the Castillian minnows.
Two days after the triumph against Logrones, the town of Burgos stood still in anticipation of the draw for the final phase of the Copa Del Rey. Whoever came out of the hat alongside Mirandés would have resulted in a huge sense of gratification amongst the people because, after all, it was a fantastic achievement to reach the previous phase. But, everyone wanted a trip to the Bernabeu or The Nou Camp, as is human nature. However, it was a tie against Juan Carlos Garridos ‘Villarreal’ over two legs which was the reward. Despite the Valencian club having such a poor season, it was never suggested that a club with such a limited amount of talent could make their season even worse. Or could they?
In recent seasons, Villarreal had been arguably one of La Liga’s most consistent sides. A 2nd place finish in 2008 was the highlight of the most successful spell in their history. It was not too long ago that the Yellow Submarine were in the same position as Mirandés; ensconced in the 3rd tier of Spanish football with no hope of ever making it to the big time.
But, between the 13th and 20th of December, Mirandés gave Villarreal a timely reminder of what it is like to lose to a side in the lower reaches of the Liga. In the first leg at Anduva, a goal from Arroyo ensured that a shock in the first leg was very much on the cards. Borja Valero scored a late equaliser to spare Garrido’s blushes and that seemed to ensure that the upset had been averted.
Pablo Infante had other ideas, though. The deadlock could not be broken for the first sixty minutes. Two goals in the final half hour sent the minnows into ecstasy and sent the Villarreal manager to the job centre. A long, hard journey seemed to have climaxed with the biggest result in their history. Much to everybody’s surprise, this journey was only beginning.
Next up was financially troubled La Liga side Racing Santander. Even though the Cantabrians were flirting with relegation, they were still hot favourites to win the tie. Infante, once again, defied the odds and scored a goal in each leg as a tie with Espanyol in the quarter finals beckoned. The dream cup run began to turn into a fairytale.
The first leg took place at the newly built Cornellá El Prat on the 17th of January. Espanyol, like Mirandés’ previous opponents, were expected to blitz their counterparts and end this crazy cup run once and for all. And like Villarreal and Santander, that plan fell foul. Well, for the first 78 minutes of the first leg it did. The familiar faces of Arroyo and Infante put their side into dreamland once again. Weiss, Rui Fonte and Verdu scored late on to give the scoreline a more unsurprising look of 3-2 to the Blanquiblaus going into the second leg.
That’s how it stayed until the 47th minute of the second leg at Anduva, when Rui Fonte once again showed the gulf in class when he slipped the ball past the Mirandès goalkeeper. The tie was over, Mirandés were abruptly awaken and their dream was finished.
Well, so everyone thought. Everyone apart from Infante, who, once again, refused to read the script and bow to conformity. He equalised 10 minutes later when the space opened in front of him and his long shot bounced awkwardly for the keeper, finding the back of the net. Then in the 92nd minute, Cesar, a former Spanish u-18 international made his way forward from the back for a set piece. Time seemed to stop still for a minute as the thinkable happened.
The ball was floated in and somehow made its way into the back of the Espanyol net after Cesar got his head to it. Mirandès were in the semi final after winning the second leg 2-1, going through on away goals. It was a miracle, and Burgos partied like it was 1999. Everybody, except the top scorer Infante. He made his way home and had an early night, as the bank director had to be up at 7am the next morning to help run the local bank, which is located only 50 km’s from the clubs facilities.
Basque giants Athletic Bilbao awaited in the semis. The result didn’t matter. The province had their pride back. The defence lost their composure, the goals from Infante dried up and Bilbao ran riot, 8-3 on aggregate being the final score. Still though, scoring three times against the side that knocked Manchester United out of the Europa League is no easy feat. While Bilbao marched on to Madrid, Mirandés marched onto modern day legendary status. They had defied the odds and ensured that no matter what happens in future, they will always have these many countless moments of glory, and the scalps of Villarreal, Racing Santander and Espanyol in their lockers.
It would have been nice, even amazing, to see them meet Barça in the final, but that would almost certainly been embarrassing. Who knows? Pablo Infante might just get his big move one day. He will certainly be remembered no matter what happens.
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