Down by two goals midway through the second half at the Camp Nou, most teams would have packed it in. Some may have kept attacking only to be obliterated for daring to do so, but even fewer would have been able to stem the tide, far less muster a comeback.
When Barcelona go ahead, the tie is rarely in doubt, and the question then becomes: How many goals? But this past weekend with linchpin Neymar stuck on the sidelines taking selfies with fellow Brazilian Rafinha, Deportivo La Coruña had other ideas. Two goals in the last 14 minutes, courtesy of Lucas Perez and Alex Bergantinos (the latter’s first goal in the past three years), were enough to earn a draw away to Barcelona and give Deportivo a vital away point as they continue to push for European soccer. The Galician outfit currently sit sixth in La Liga after 15 games and are already only 12 points back of their entire point total from last campaign, when the Brancoazuis barely escaped the drop.
For the first time in a decade the fans have reason to be optimistic about the club’s future; a future that was for so long myopically mortgaged in favor of the present.
Only five teams have won La Liga since 1985: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Valencia and Deportivo La Coruña . It was 15 years ago when Deportivo claimed theirs, making La Coruña the second-smallest Spanish city to ever have a title-winner.
Deportivo’s was an incredibly well-balanced outfit, lead by the likes of Noureddine Naybet, Mauro Silva, Djalminha (a YouTube highlight reel player way ahead of his time) and Roy Makaay. That summer, the club would forge ahead, bringing in the likes of Diego Tristan and Juan Carlos Valeron – supreme talents that would keep them at the pinnacle of European soccer for the next few years.
The influx of talent directly correlated with the heavy investment that long-time club president César Augusto Lendoiro injected into the club right before the turn of the millennium. He invested up to €250 million into the club in the form of transfers and the redevelopment of the team’s venue, the Riazor. He also made a genius move recruiting Javier Irureta, then a promising coach at fierce rival Celta Vigo. Before the 98-99 season, they would build a European giant.
Like Leeds United, Deportivo is a club that always elicits an empathetic response from fans the world over. Both teams seemed to be on the rise in the early aughts, challenging the status quo, with lengthy European runs while playing an impressive brand of soccer. Depor, in particular, will always be remembered for recording one of the most famous second-leg victories in Champions League history when they steamrolled a star-studded AC Milan side 4-0 at the Riazor, overcoming a three-goal deficit from the first leg of the teams’ 2003-04 quarterfinal.