José Mourinho’s ambition of doing the treble in Spain is still on course after Wednesday night’s 5-1 annihilation of Murcia in the second leg of the Copa del Rey. However, it was a night of mixed emotions for the ‘Special One’ as he was sent from the bench in the 38th minute for insulting referee Paradas Romero. It’s the first time the Portuguese has been dismissed since coming to Spain.
Mourinho had asked for a high-octane atmosphere before the game – the first leg had ended goalless – and a quick look back at Real’s last 16 knockout ties in the Copa del Rey and Champions League reveals why. In 12 of the 16 they have failed to get through, and it’s almost five years since they managed to defeat a team from their own category in a two-legged affair. Athletic Bilbao and Real Betis were both beaten in the 2005/06 Copa del Rey; the only other sides to have been overcome were Segunda B outfits Écija (2006/07) and Alicante (2007/08) – even then both first legs ended in 1-1 draws.
The 200/08 Copa del Rey also saw Madrid knocked out at the first hurdle by Real Unión, who won on the away goals rule after the sides had tied 6-6 on aggregate. It was a result that was instrumental in the sacking of Bernd Schuster, dismissed less than a month later on the eve of a visit to the Camp Nou. There followed more humiliation twelve months on when Alcorcón were the victors, this time by a 4-1 aggregate margin after winning the first leg 4-0.
First division clubs in Spain have traditionally treated the Copa del Rey with about as much interest as English Premiership sides do the Carling Cup, frequently sending out teams consisting of fringe players with the sole intention of keeping their fitness levels up. But Mourinho has shown his intention of winning every trophy available to him, which explains why he got into such a tizzy on what was supposed to be a relatively comfortable evening for his men.
With seven Spanish players in the starting line-up, a tremendous crowd of 75,000 saw Granero’s early strike settle any nerves. Further goals from Higuaín, Benzema (penalty) and second-half substitutes Cristiano Ronaldo and Xabi Alonso ensured los blancos eased into the quarter-finals without any problems, though whether Mourinho is back on the sidelines for the next round is another matter.