FFT.com's Spanish expert Tim Stannard assesses Spain's big weekend of cup football...
In a bold move by the Spanish FA, the last 32 first-leg ties of the Copa del Rey were moved to the weekend, shunting aside La Liga and thus helping everyone to not take league action for granted.
Despite general indifference towards a competition largely ignored until the semi-final stages or until a Clásico rears its attention-seeking head, La Liga Loca dutifully attempted to keep up with all 16 clashes and bring you, the lucky reader, a weekend award show.
The maddest football fan in Spain
Epic is perhaps the best description for Spain's three-day Copa del Rey marathon. Not necessarily because of the nature of results (not too much happened in the drama department), but the brutal, torturous length of the last-32 first legs that kicked off on Friday at midday and finished 15 games later on Sunday night at 11. With most of the clashes largely stand-alone and running back-to-back, the blog is wondering if there is some poor, giggly-insane fan out there who watched it all from beginning to end.
Angriest reaction to a goal
Over in Lleida, Real Betis playmaker Joan Verdú performed a Panenka with such ineptitude that he was chased around the box by opposition players irked by the Catalan’s temerity. What really annoyed the furious players about the immensely lame one-foot-off-the-ground effort, though, was the fact that it worked and helped Betis to a 2-1 win.
Worst refereeing decision of the weekend
It was one of those moments where viewers would have questioned their own football knowledge when the goal was awarded. Over to the Betis clash again and a free-kick given to home side, Lleida, who were 2-0 down at the time. The ball drifts into the box, catching seven Lleida players offside. The problem, however, was that referee Delgado Ferreiro didn’t see any of them, which left Pere Milla with a free shot on goal four metres behind the perplexed Betis backline.
The least noticed football result in cup history
Valladolid 0-0 Rayo Vallecano. Edge-of-the-seat, nail-biting stuff for that second leg.
The worst-attended match in cup history
Actually, LLL is pretty sure Getafe must hold this record but the crowd of 700 in Huelva should feel proud of themselves for making the effort to turn up to Recreativo 1-0 Levante.
Most obvious football fact of the weekend
It did not go unnoticed over the weekend that Carles Puyol is not quite as swift as the stopper he once was, back in the day. Knobbly-knees worthy of a Hi-de-Hi contest have now taken away his special ability to dig himself out of defensive trouble by catching up with flying attackers who break Barcelona’s watertight offside trap. Cartagena forward Fernando Ortega managed that to open the scoring for the home team, though, with poor Puyol barely able to make up the ground on the striker. Fortunately, Pedro & Co. up front were able to turn the game around with a 4-1 win.
Most sheepish goal of the round
Diego Simeone was in no mood for a slow-down, which is why Atlético Madrid cooly dismantled Barcelona-based Sant Andreu on their artificial turf with a 4-0 victory. The third effort was the most impressive, with a series of jinks, turns, backheels and dummies leading to Arda Turan finishing off and trying not too look too chuffed about the affair.
Stroppiest departure from the pitch
Angel di María picks up this particular trinket with no doubts at all. On the morning of Saturday’s match with Olimpic Xativa, the player was linked with a move to Monaco in the winter window by Marca, having quickly grown tired of being a bench-sitting understudy. That was where the winger was banished to after 56 minutes of Madrid’s goalless draw, a decision that saw him tear off his shirt and storm off down the tunnel. Ooooooo!
The best non-blasted free-kick
Whacking a free-kick into the top corner at 200mph is all very admirable, but it takes real finesse and flair to be able to pop a shot past a motionless goalkeeper with the ball barely going at walking pace. That is what David Timor of Girona managed in a 1-1 draw against Getafe, in a match also noticeable that it featured two teams beginning with the letter ‘G’.
The least appreciated win
Too cool for skool Celta manager Luis Enrique admitted before his side's clash with Athletic Bilbao that the Copa del Rey was of no real interest to his club. Despite such enthusiasm, the Galicians still came away with a victory after local lad Santi Mina scored a winner to take a 1-0 lead into the second leg in San Mamés. “The worst thing is that we did not pick up any points,” grouched the former Barcelona B boss.
The result that might have been cool but isn’t
Valencia managing to stuff things up is always newsworthy, but somehow it doesn’t feel the case after the goalless draw against Gimnàstic that can be repaired in Mestalla in the second leg. “Nàstic gift Valencia a second chance,” screeched Marca’s headline, on a performance from the visitors that was not all that.
The ‘it wasn’t all bad’ award
Actually, coming in to save the round were two Primera teams in the form of Málaga and Osasuna, who forgot their normally goal-shy ways this season to knock out a 3-3 thriller late on Sunday night.