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When Real Madrid B Almost Won The Copa Del Rey

B teams are no modern innovation in football, and while in Britain they are consigned to U21’s divisions, on the continent, B teams are widespread throughout senior professional leagues.

Barcelona B has always been a gateway to glittering careers but for all of Barcelona B’s success in producing talent. They have never managed to achieve much success, understandably so.

But, much like with the senior teams, their rivalry with Real Madrid Castilla is fierce. For all the Catalan’s fantastic record with producing top players, The Real Madrid B team will always have much more tangible achievement in their locker.

Real Madrid Castilla managed to represent Spain in European competition. Not the European Cup, that would be silly, and probably against the rules as Real Madrid A were playing.

The story of their plight in Europe is strange enough, but how they wound up there is even more bizarre.

The Best B Team in Spain

In 1979, Real Madrid Castilla were shaping up for a season of second-division football, all of the players hoping to impress and earn a place in the senior squad.

There was little goal to their season, other than win as much as they could. Promotion couldn’t happen for a B side, so even were they to win they couldn’t exist in the same league as the main side. It’s simply a conflict of interests.

But, aside from this, they operated like any senior team. They played in Cups and faced senior teams every week.

When Castilla beat lower league side CF Extremadura 10-2 in September it was no doubt a commanding performance to help boost players’ confidence.

A 5-1 two-legged dismantling of AD Alcorcon saw them comfortably dispose of tougher opposition. But this was standard, these were low-level teams and were nothing to marvel at.

Add to that a 3-1 win against fellow second division side Racing Santander, and Castilla were in the 4th round, with the bigger teams eyeing up an easy draw against a B team.

A Real Test

They would finally draw a 1st division team but managed to dodge the likes of Barcelona or their A-team. Hercules was their 4th round opponent. A side battling relegation.

With Castilla finally facing real competition, the step up in quality was immediately too much. Castilla struggled to break the side down and found themselves at the Primera Division side’s mercy.

They lost 4-1. The round was surely over. A home second leg in front of a sparse crowd of fans looked a bleak way to crash out.

But through youthful exuberance and possibly even arrogance, Castilla found themselves 2-0 up within 32 minutes. They were a goal away from being level on aggregate, and the side now once back to their best began to control the game. There was a confidence not seen in the first leg.

Even still, Castilla had to wait 89 minutes before they finally drew level, thanks to Ricardo Gallego, a man who went on to make 250 appearances for the senior Madrid team.

With Hercules dealt a mighty sucker punch, Castilla continued to hold the momentum as Benal scored the golden goal, sending Castilla through to the dizzying heights of the round of 16.

It was a much bigger test now, as they faced Bilbao, a side who went on to finish 7th in the first division, and would win La Liga just 3 years later.

Even at the time, this was a mismatch of epic proportions.

Imagine a Liverpool U21 team playing against Aston Villa in the latter stages of the F.A Cup this season. It would be stupefying. As much as Castilla were a B team, they were effectively U-21s. 

But of course, you know where this is going…

Castilla held Bilbao to a 0-0 draw at home in front of 47,500 people, easily a record-breaking turnout for a B team that had only drawn 9,000 supporters against Hercules.

A Monumental Cup Shock

With the return fixture played in Bilbao, the 0-0 at home probably wasn’t enough.

In the end, it took Bilbao 180 minutes to score against this B team, Bilbao finally breaking their duck in the 90th minute with a strike from Bilbao legend Dani.

It was just a shame that by this point Castilla were 2-0 ahead, Pineda and Baillin with the goals coming in the 56th and 84th minute respectively. 

More importantly, though, Madrid were through to the Quarter-Final. And so was their B team.

Castilla once again saw the level of their opponent taken up a notch. This time they faced Real Sociedad who were locked in a title fight with Real Madrid themselves.

Real Madrid had failed to beat them in the league. The senior team lost 4-0 away from home and salvaged a point in a 2-2 draw at the Bernabeu. If the A team couldn’t do it, surely the B team couldn’t? 

Were they to get a result, by the ruling of children everywhere, it would make them better than their own senior team.

The youth side put on a vintage Madrid performance, in a tie that should go down in the annals as one of the best Madrid performances of that decade.

Sociedad had dispatched Castilla in a tight contest, winning 2-1 at home, courtesy of a flurry of goals within 6 minutes.

Sanchez Lorenzo actually gave Castilla the lead, before just a minute later, Satrústegui replied. Sociedad went on to win on the night just 5 minutes later, as the match exploded into a frenetic finale.

Sociedad stalwart, José Diego, scored the winner with 10 minutes to play, and both sides could go away feeling fairly happy with a 2-1 scoreline at the Atotxa stadium.

But Sociedad were not ready for just how big of a deal this next match was.

100,000 people were in attendance at the Bernabeu to watch the B team play.

No doubt looking for a humiliation for the at the time league leaders, the B team amassed a crowd larger than many of the attendances for the senior team that season.

In an electric atmosphere that for the whole team would have been their first exposure to such a magnanimous crowd, Castilla did not disappoint.

Two first-half goals through Paco and Sánchez Lorenzo gave the B team a 2-0 lead, and after a tense second half, Castilla held on to knock out the first-division front runners 3-2 on aggregate. 

Castilla again escaped their senior affiliate in the draw.

Seeing Double

It was Sporting Gijon who faced the task of doing what no one else could do and stop this rampaging rag-tag group of young second-division players.

Sporting were similarly flying high in the first division. Very much out of a title race, but looking to sneak onto the podium in 3rd.

It was another test of might, but there were no doubters left. Castilla were playing brilliantly. Anybody who saw them witnessed a fluid dynamic team of twenty-year-olds that played with the confidence and aggression expected of season professionals. All in front of huge crowds they’d never come close to experiencing.

Away from home, Castilla fell to a 2-0 defeat. But, even trailing 2-0 to a  much better side on paper, by now you’d be a fool to write them off.

And sure enough many fools would declare this was finally the end of the road.

80,000 turned up for the home leg, a fifth less than the previous tie, but still a ridiculous turnout.

Those 80,000 watched on as Castilla absolutely destroyed Gijon.

Players nobody had heard of before this cup run were making one of the First division’s best teams look like Semi-professionals.

By halftime, Castilla were 3-0 up and leading the tie 3-2 on aggregate.

The game went on to finish 4-1, a 70th-minute strike from club legend Joaquin giving Sporting a faint glimmer of hope that wasn’t capitalised on.

They’d done it. They had reached the final, but now all eyes were on the other Semi-final. The Madrid derby, Atletico vs. Real.

The first leg had finished 0-0. With another second leg at the Bernabeu, it was a good time to be a football fan in Madrid with so much football to watch.

Madrid took the lead in the 19th minute but were pegged back by Atleti 4 minutes before time in the 86th minute. 

It went to penalties.

Football’s Biggest Anti Climax

In the end, Atleti missed the 2nd and 3rd penalty, losing the shootout 4-3 and all but denying Castilla a chance at glory.

For as good as they were. There was no way Madrid was going to lose to their B team in a cup final. It would be the most embarrassing moment in football history.

Sure enough, come the Final there was a lack of interest that permeated the city.

The final was played at the Bernabeu and attracted just 65,000 fans.

That’s still a lot, but as a turnout when Real Madrid are playing a cup final, it’s pathetic.

Castilla’s underdog story had attracted far more in the latter stages, and even the senior team had seen just 5,000 fewer turn up for the Real Betis Quarterfinal.

This was nothing more than a dressed-up intrasquad friendly. The two played each other in training every week.

When Madrid had beaten Atleti, the fans celebrated knowing that the cup was decided. Real Madrid had won no matter what.

As fun and exciting as the Castilla run had been, no self-respecting football fan would want their B team to succeed over their A-team.

The atmosphere was flat.

This was no more than a testimonial.

When it comes to how Castilla played, they looked a shadow of themselves.

Some may argue it was the occasion, some might say it was fatigue after a long and successful season finishing 7th in the Segunda division, but with no fans rallying behind them and the knowledge that their ‘supporters’ didn’t want them to win clearly dramatically affected them.

I mean were they to beat the senior side, there could be genuine fear of backlash, riots even a forced exodus of Castilla players.

It would simply be too ridiculous.

All of these factors came together to cause Castilla’s worst performance of the season and their biggest defeat.

6-1 to Madrid by full time, Castilla’s only goal was a late consolation.

There was no sadness after the whistle though, both sides celebrated with each other. 

As Castilla star player and future senior team player, Gallego explains “The fact we had reached the final meant that Real Madrid were guaranteed to take us very seriously. The truth is that the 6-1 result is a reflection of the distance between us and them.”

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