Bravo for the unpredictable King’s Cup!
Spain’s much-maligned King’s Cup struggles to make an impression these days with La Liga and the Champions League squeezing it into a distant third in terms of prestige and matches poorly attended.
But this week’s Cup action served up a veritable feast of drama that more than matched what is generally served up in the other two competitions.
Atletico Madrid’s madcap victory over Recreativo Huelva earned them the last quarter-final berth on Thursday, with a thriller at the Calderon.
Having lost 3-0 in the first leg, to a team in the wrong half of the second division, Atletico stormed into a 4-0 lead.
But true to their tradition of making life complicated for themselves they gifted Recre an away goal and then had a player sent off, before Simao Sabrosa curled in a wonderful freekick to put them through 5-4 on aggregate.
The other second legs were no less enjoyable. Holders Barcelona were dumped out by Sevilla after just failing to turnaround a 2-1 first-leg defeat, thanks in no small part to the heroics of Sevilla goalkeeper Andres Palop.
Real Mallorca grabbed a 92nd-minute goal to see off second-division Rayo Vallecano 4-3 on aggregate, and second-tier Celta Vigo netted a 91st-minute penalty to humble Villarreal.
Deportivo Coruna battled back from two-goals down to put out Valencia, and Getafe banged five past Malaga. There were 48 goals over the eight two-legged ties.
The Spanish Soccer Federation (RFEF) have tampered with the format of the Cup in recent years and I’m not a huge fan of the two-legged ties – it makes for some desperately boring first legs.
The Cup is seeded so the clubs playing in Europe get the ‘easier’ ties against the lower-division sides (though that didn’t help Real Madrid who were embarrassed 4-1 on aggregate by third-tier Alcorcon in the previous round).
The ‘lesser’ sides always play at home first which gives the big boys a chance to recover after any slip-ups, and the crowds resolutely stay away.
But if it’s gung-ho attacking play, goals, controversy and underdogs having their day that you like, it was all on display this week.
Real and Barca are both out already — no surprise these days — which means it’s anyone’s guess as to who might lift the trophy in May. Any one of eight, rather than the two-horse race that is La Liga.