Getafe get gutsy in gruelling game
Despite seeing literally hundreds of games over the course of a season, there is the occasional match you know will stick with you forever and Thursday’s UEFA Cup quarter-final between Getafe and Bayern Munich was one of them.
It was the second Spanish-German clash I’d been to this week, having gone to the Nou Camp for the Barcelona-Schalke Champions League match the night before, but in terms of pure emotion and excitement there was absolutely no comparison. No excuses for resorting to an overused cliché because this time it is no exaggeration – this one was a real rollercoaster of a Cup tie.
From the first whistle to the last it was non-stop action and as a journalist it was one of those games where you feel like telephoning in your resignation at halftime because you don’t want to miss any of it while typing your match report which, by the way, I had to rewrite about five times.
There was something in the air that made you know it was going to be a classic and when Bayern had a goal ruled out for offside in the first minute my feelings were confirmed. Getafe had their top player Ruben de la Red sent off after six minutes and lost their most dangerous striker Ikechukwu Uche before the 20th.
But the setbacks and the deafening support of the 16,000 fans crammed into the Coliseum only served to inspire them. Cosmin Contra, the hero of the first leg with his last-minute equaliser and a veteran of Alaves’s fairytale run to the UEFA Cup final in 2001, struck a brilliant solo goal to give Getafe a deserved lead just before halftime.
But I knew it wasn’t going to be a simple giantkilling win when Getafe substitute Braulio sped clear midway through the second half, rounded Oliver Kahn and then slipped over as he was preparing to slot the ball into the empty net. True enough, in practically their only attack of the second half, Bayern equalised with just over a minute to go.
Usually you expect the smaller side to hang on for grim death in extra time and eventually fold against their more illustrious opponents or hope for penalties. But Getafe might just have been listening to my colleague Mark Elkington, who was sitting beside me commenting: “Oh dear, you don’t want to go for penalties against the Germans.”
Two quickfire goals from Javi Casquero and Braulio sent the crowd into delirium and Getafe on the way to a famous victory…except of course the dream never came true.
With five minutes to go Luca Toni pulled one back after Getafe goalkeeper Pato Abbondanzieri fumbled a simple cross and rolled it into his path.
As the crowd nervously began the countdown to the final whistle, Bayern keeper Oliver Kahn charged up into the opposition area and eventually Toni headed in. Total silence… even the Bayern fans seemed stunned.
Seconds later it was over and it was heartening to see the first reaction of many Bayern players was to go and console their opponents. Martin Demichelis put his arm round Argentine colleague Abbondanzieri, Kahn did the same. It was obvious Getafe had won the respect and admiration of the four-times European champions.
“I’ve played 140 games in the European Cup. I’ve played everywhere – Madrid, Milan, London and Barcelona – but tonight has been incredible. I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Kahn said. That comes from someone who played in the 1999 Champions League final against Manchester United remember.
“Getafe fought like madmen for 120 minutes and in these circumstances it is difficult to perform. We are obviously delighted but you have to feel for them.”
Getafe now pick themselves up for a league match at home to Real Zaragoza on Sunday and then take on Valencia in their second consecutive King’s Cup final next Wednesday.
When I went down to the mixed zone to talk to the players I had little doubt this team will be back to fight another day. With his eyes still red with tears, club captain David Belenguer made his way out of the dressing room and patiently talked to all the waiting reporters til well after 1am.
How can Getafe bounce back from this we asked? “Don’t worry,” he said. “We already have.”
PHOTO: Bayern Munich’s Luca Toni heads the winner against Getafe in the UEFA Cup quater-final second leg. April 10 REUTERS/Felix Ausin Ordonez