Third-tier Mirandes pulled
off one of the biggest upsets in King's Cup history when they
scored in added time to snatch a shock 2-1 comeback win over
top-flight side Espanyol on Tuesday that sent them through to
the semi-finals on away goals.
The 4-4 aggregate result, coming after last week's first leg
in Barcelona finished 3-2, prompted wild celebrations at the
club's 6,000-capacity stadium in Miranda de Ebro and set up a
semi-final against Athletic Bilbao or Real Mallorca.
It was only the second time a team from the third level of
Spanish football has reached the last four of the cup, as
Mirandes, who have an annual budget of just over 1.2 million
euros, followed up their unlikely successes
against La Liga clubs Villareal and Racing Santander with
another heroic display.
"This is amazing," captain Pablo Infante, a local bank
employee who netted the equaliser and provided the assist for
the dramatic winner, told Spanish television.
"Tomorrow I have to go to work but we are going to celebrate
a bit first," he added.
Espanyol came from two goals down to win the first leg at
their Cornella home and looked to be cruising when Rui Fonte
made it 1-0 and 4-2 on aggregate shortly after half-time.
Infante levelled with just over half-an-hour left and the
home side made a mockery of their humble status by laying siege
to the Espanyol goal in the final stages before Cesar netted the
crucial goal in the second minute of added-time.
Fans spilled onto the pitch to celebrate with their heroes
and the victory prompted messages of congratulation from Spanish
internationals including captain Iker Casillas, defender Gerard
Pique and midfielder Cesc Fabregas.
"Incredible. I am speechless. Spectacular, that's what
football is all about," Fabregas wrote on his Twitter feed.
Bilbao are Mirandes's likely opponents in the last four
after they beat La Liga rivals Real Mallorca 2-0 at the San
Mames last week, with the return leg in Palma on Wednesday.
On the other side of the draw, holders Real Madrid need to
overturn a 2-1 deficit when they play at 2011 runners-up
Barcelona later on Wednesday.
The build-up to the game has been overshadowed by the
controversy surrounding Pepe's alleged stamp on the hand of
Barca's World Player of the Year Lionel Messi during the first
leg in Madrid.
The Portuguese international said it was unintentional and
the Spanish football federation (RFEF) took no action, meaning he
is free to play at the Nou Camp if fit.
If Barca eliminate their arch rivals they will probably face
Valencia, who beat Levante 4-1 in their quarter-final first leg
and play at their city neighbours on Thursday.
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