Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hollywood Ending Outside Madrid -- Getafe Dumps Barcelona -- In a win almost as unlikely as the "Miracle on Ice," Getafe routed Barcelona, and ousted them from the Copa del Rey tournament in Spain. The teams met last month, in Barcelona, in the first leg of their tournament semifinal match-up. As expected, mighty Barcelona, with its star-studded lineup, ran tiny Getafe out of the park, with a 5-2 drubbing. The game was really memorable only because it proved to be Lionel Messi's coming out party. The Argentine teenager not only notched a hat-trick, he contributed the most spectacular dribbling run and goal of the last 20 years.

Tonight, the teams met in the return match. This time, the setting was Getafe's intimate stadium, before 16,000 fans, who couldn't have imagined, in their wildest dreams, that their heroes would recover the three-goal deficit and advance to the Copa final. Incredibly, that's exactly what happened. Getafe got two goals in the final ten minutes of the first half. As the second half played out, Barcelona seemed completely impotent, and needed a couple of terrific saves from backup goalkeeper, Albert Jorquera, to keep Getafe from gaining the advantage in the series, based on their away goals.

If you were scripting this, for a Rocky-type movie, you would, of course, build expectation towards the totally improbable outcome. Your script would have to include shots of the rabid fans, pulsing, ready to explode out of their seats, as they sensed the crucial goal was coming. No doubt, these scenes were being played out, for real, across the stadium in Getafe.

Sure enough, as if it had been scripted, just shy of 26 minutes into the second half, Getafe got a free kick in a dangerous position. The kick bent down and found the head of team captain Vivar Dorado, whose last name means "golden." His touch was certainly golden, as he pushed the ball low and towards the corner, beyond the reach of Barca's 'keeper, Jorquera. Not even two minutes later, Getafe sprang Daniel Güiza, who blasted the ball past Jorquera, for the "insurance" goal, giving Getafe a 4-0 lead, and a 6-5 aggregate goals lead.

Barcelona finally showed some life in the last ten minutes. First, Samuel Eto'o displayed his incredible skill in bringing down and controlling a long pass into the box, while defenders watched helplessly. Eto'o gained a clear shot at goal, but pushed the ball over the crossbar. A few minutes later, Getafe's goalie, Luis García, denied Ronaldinho a chance to put Barca on the scoreboard, as he charged the Brazilian superstar and deflected the shot across the box. As Garcia scrambled to his feet and raced to get back into position, Getafe's defenders twice stopped shots that seemed like sure goals.

Having survived Bareclona's greatest threat, all that remained for the underdogs was the celebrations, as Getafe's fans joyously bounced and sang as the final minutes and seconds ran off until this most unlikely upset became official. Without question, this will be regarded as the most memorable win in the team's history, even if Getafe goes on to beat Sevilla in the final -- just as the U.S.A. hockey team's semifinal win over the U.S.S.R., in the 1980 Winter Olympics, is what everyone remembers, instead of the gold medal game against Finland.

This may been the most remarkable result in football/soccer since the U.S.A. beat England in the World Cup, in 1950. A truly fantastical finish that would seem contrived if you read it in a script, or saw it on the screen -- but, this night, in Getafe, it really, truly happened.

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