Real Madrid were on the receiving side of a big Copa del Rey surprise on Wednesday night as they crashed in the final 32 leg against the 10-man third-row Alcoyano.
The Spanish giants had taken the lead on the stroke of half-time thanks to the header of Eder Militao, but Jose Solbes struck in the 80th minute to send the tie back to extra time.
Ramon Lopez was sent off for the hosts in the second half of extra time, before Juanan snuck to the near post with five minutes left to give the Alcoyano a famous victory against all odds.
It’s now three games without a win for Real Madrid following Thursday’s Super Cup semi-final loss to Athletic Club and their draw with Osasuna. The pressure is mounting on Zinedine Zidane.
So who are the brave underdogs who humiliated Madrid and left Zidane on the brink?
Alcoyano is based in the town of Alcoy in the Alicante region in eastern Spain. It is just over 100 km from Valencia and 60 km from Benidorm.
They play in Segunda’s B division – the third tier of Spanish football, which is regionalized. Alcoyano has played in La Liga, but not since 1951. Their best league ranking came in the 1947/48 season, when they placed 10th in the top flight (one place and one point above Real Madrid ).
However, they have spent 49 of the last 50 seasons playing in the third and fourth levels. Alcoyano was a fourth division team last season, but was promoted to Group 6 of the Tercera division.
Between 1992-1994 they were managed by future Tottenham and Real Madrid boss Juande Ramos.
We need to put in context what a huge shock this result is. It is truly remarkable. The El Collao d’Alcoyano stadium has a capacity of 4,850 seats. Real Madrid’s Alfredo Di Stefano training ground holds more.
Alcoyano is currently fourth in Segunda Division B Group 3 – their division is dominated by Ibiza.
The third tier team have lost two of their 10 league games this season – one of them was a 3-0 loss to Villarreal’s B team in November.
To add more context, Real Madrid’s B team Castilla also play in Segunda’s B division, albeit in a different squad.
Jony had gone into the heart of Alcoyano midfielder in his victory over Real Madrid.
Alcoyano is the 15th club in the 35-year-old’s career – and he comes from a footballing family. His father Boria played top football for Elche, the club where Jony’s middle brother Aaron Niguez is also currently plying his trade.
Oh, and their younger brother is Saul Niguez, who has made over 300 appearances for Atletico Madrid, made a Champions League final, represented Spain and is considered one of the best midfielders in land in the world.
Goalkeeper Jose Juan delivered a player of the match performance for Alcoyano with a number of fine saves as Real Madrid recorded 11 shots on target. It was an amazing performance by a man who on January 25 will celebrate his 42nd birthday.
Jose Juan has been around the block, with his career high point so far, a draw between Wednesday’s win over Real, promotion to second tier with Elche in 2018 or playing 37 minutes of football from La Liga for Celta Vigo in 2003.
When he started his career in the 1998/99 season, three of Real Madrid’s starting eleven were unborn (Andriy Lunin, Victo Chust and Vinicius Junior)
At 41, Jose Juan is the team’s veteran – but that’s no anomaly.
Alcoyano’s starting XI had an average age of 27 – with five players over 30.
They also had the luxury of bringing in 39-year-old attacking midfielder Juli on time, presumably to give the proceedings some pace.
The Spanish expression “Tener más moral que el Alcoyano” means “to have more morale than Alcoyano”.
Rumor has it that the phrase originated in the 1950s, referring to a game where Alcoyano lost 13-0 at home but never gave up, always trying to score until the final whistle.
Feelings that Zidane and Real Madrid can reflect on.
Juanan Casanova, 30, took advantage of the moment in his career when he shot a cross to give Alcoyano an unexpected victory.
The midfielder actually has a bit of a history of being a lucky charm for Madrid.
In 2019 he was in the crowd supporting his beloved Valencia like they won the Copa del Rey – hitting, don’t you know, Real Madrid in the semi-finals.