Real Madrid were held to an embarrassing 0-0 draw by third-tier Olimpic de Xativa in their Copa del Rey last-32 first leg on Saturday, as they came down to earth with a crash after a series of big wins.
Real, the world’s richest club by income, were missing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Xabi Alonso, but a team packed with internationals still failed to see off lowly opponents at their tiny stadium near Valencia.
The Olimpic players compete in a regional division one level below Real’s B team and worked tirelessly on the artificial pitch to keep their illustrious visitors, the 2011 Copa del Rey winners, from barely managing a shot on target.
Real coach Carlo Ancelotti, whose side scored 18 goals in their past four outings, spent most of the match furiously chewing gum and shaking his head on the sidelines.
Even the introduction of France striker Karim Benzema and Croatia midfielder Luka Modric in the second half failed to break down a dogged home defense.
The final whistle prompted boisterous celebrations among the several thousand incredulous home fans crammed into the modest arena, who chanted “Yes we can” ahead of the return at the Santiago Bernabeu on Dec. 18.
Olimpic’s annual revenue is about 600,000 euros (US$821,000), while Real’s is more than 500 million euros and they set a record transfer fee of 100 million euros when they bought Wales winger Bale in the close season.
“We are not used to the pitch, the ball travels much more slowly and maybe there is a bit less space here,” Real centerback Nacho said in an interview with Spanish television broadcaster Canal Plus.
“But we have no excuses and now we just have to focus on the return leg. The coach wasn’t angry at all at halftime, he just asked for a bit more intensity,” Nacho said.
Real came closest to scoring when Jese flashed a shot narrowly wide in the 72nd minute, while Benzema fluffed an effort when well-placed 10 minutes from time.
The Olimpic players were clearly overjoyed at the result in what was by far the biggest game of their careers and made sure to swap shirts with their opponents at the end.
“We knew it was going to be very tough to get anything from the game, but we got the draw,” beaming fullback Jose Peris told Canal Plus. “We know it’s going to be extremely hard to win at the Bernabeu, but the tie is still open.”
In Saturday’s other first legs, holders Atletico Madrid eased to a 4-0 win at third-tier Sant Andreu thanks to an Arda Turan double and a goal apiece from David Villa and Raul Garcia.
Athletic Bilbao were beaten 1-0 at La Liga rivals Celta de Vigo, Getafe were held to a 1-1 draw at second-division Girona and Levante UD lost 1-0 at Recreativo de Huelva, who also play in the second tier.
Barcelona, conceded a surprise early goal in their first leg game at third-tier Cartagena on Friday, but a Pedro double helped them fight back to secure a 4-1 victory.