Although Real Madrid needed five goals to overturn their Round of 32 tie with Alcorcón, a certain sense of denial was important in this particular situation so that they could believe that their task was not impossible. Kaká stated, “For the pride and for the history of Real Madrid, we have to win this tie.” Marcelo and Jerzy Dudek followed in this same vein, declaring, “… for our badge and our shirt, we will not fail.”
Through all these hopeful and defiant player statements about their second leg against Alcorcón, Ezequiel Garay showed their true depth of denial when he proclaimed that the Bernabéu will be the 12th man on Tuesday night. Apparently, Garay relied upon a historically impatient set of supporters, whose lofty standards often lead more to boos and jeers than blind loyalty.
After the opening stanza of the game, where Real Madrid came out with guns blazing, reality began to settle in as their exertions led to zero goals on the scoreboard. Real Madrid knew that Alcorcón would put ten men behind the ball, and Alcorcón knew they had to defend for their lives as Real sent out three strikers, Raúl, Ruud van Nistelrooy, and Gonzalo Higuaín, as well as Kaká from behind to break the Alcorcón dam. Alcorcón manager Juan Antonio Anquela admitted as much, saying, “If they want to crush us, they will crush us. If Madrid is at its very best then it will be difficult to move on. They are the clear favorites. We hope we can win, but not in this leg.”
The Real Madrid players began to get frustrated, as Alcorcón canceled most of their attacking opportunities, and the demanding Madridistas were not shy in their disapproval. There was no disputable red card to distract the supporters in the Santiago Bernabéu as there was in their La Liga clash with Getafe on Saturday. The full venom of their anger went directly to the players, excoriating their every move as the minutes ticked toward their inevitable fate. Whether the fans’ fury fixated on the players, management, ownership, or both, the rampant condemnation within the stadium was more than palpable, especially when Manuel Pellegrini substituted man of the match at the time Lassana Diarra in the second half.
As Real Madrid got closer and closer to breaking the stalemate, many believed that the first goal would open the floodgates. If only Real could score early in the second half, Alcorcón would feel the pressure for the first time. Many prayers by the Madridistas were sent to higher powers, asking for a minor miracle. They will reform their lifestyles. They will give up their vices. They will change. One goal is all they need to spur them on to a historic comeback. Grant us this one wish.
As Real hit one, then two, then three posts/crossbars, the players and the fans ceased to bargain. Rafael van der Vaart’s 81st minute goal only helped in ushering a sense of hopelessness. There was no way Real could score three more times in nine minutes plus stoppage time. The depression set in as Real Madrid won the second leg 1-0 but lost the tie 1-4 on aggregate.
After the match, Pepe remarked to Spanish sports daily, AS, “It’s a very sad night. The attitude and spirit have been positive, but the win could not be. The effort was there.” Florentino Pérez, the proactive and ambitious president of Real Madrid, was muted in his assessment of the state of affairs, articulating, “It wouldn’t be a failure if we didn’t win a trophy. We are in the middle of building a new project. We’ll give it stability.”
For the players, depression after a loss is only short-lived because their next objectives come at a rapid pace, and they do not have to mull over a loss like this. Unfortunately, for Real Madrid, there is an international break this coming weekend, which means they will not start avenging this loss until November 22, when they host Racing Santander at the Bernabéu.
As one would expect with professional footballers and managers, they should have the proper perspective after all the loss and heartbreak they have suffered in their careers. “The players are with me, but it’s not easy overturning a four goal deficit because were playing against the score line, against the opponent, and against anxiety. But we are a point behind Barcelona in La Liga and leading our group in the Champions League. This will end well,” declared the levelheaded Real Madrid manager Manuel Pellegrini, according to AS.
“The fault lies with all of the players, who are the ones who play the game. We had a very bad first leg. We lost 4-0, a very heavy losing margin. We have not lived up to what is required at Real Madrid. They worked hard to get through and they deserved it,” Raúl Albiol said to Marca.
Whether Pellegrini and Albiol truly meant these words or if they were hollow statements is irrelevant. They have to assure both the Madrid media and the Real supporters that their Round of 32 collapse to Alcorcón was merely a blip on the radar and that they would grow stronger from these experiences. Alcorcón justified their two-legged victory as more than a fluke. Real Madrid does have bigger fish to fry. As Pellegrini mentioned, they are second in La Liga by one point and tied with AC Milan at the top of Group C in the Champions League. Real has not won the Copa del Rey since 1993, so while the manner of their exit was surprising, the exit itself was not. Understandably, all is doom and gloom in the Real universe, but if Real Madrid wins either of the two competitions in which they are still entered, this Copa del Rey embarrassment will merely be a footnote in their history.