This is the story of how Valencia's historic 4-1 win against Real Madrid on Sunday owes something to a grandmother, a grandpa, Dani Parejo, Peter Lim, Getafes Djene Dakonam, an angel, a demon and of course one of Los Che's most famous ball boys .
This is the jam-packed Keystone Kops, an Eye of the Hurricane, in which Carlos Soler missed, scored and then scored twice more, all from 11 yards in the box to hand Zinedine Zidane his worst loss as coach of Madrid. It's such a good story that it led Valencia's local soccer newspaper Superdeporte to titled its front page on Monday morning: "Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha!"
The whole intertwined process begins a week ago when Valencia and Getafe furiously fueled their longstanding feud with a 2-2 draw in Mestalla.
But carry it with me. As fun as this vendetta match was, it is vitally important why Soler became Valencia's favorite son for his exploits against the Spanish champions.
Imagine the scene a week ago. Valencia have played with 10 men since the 56th minute and led their hated enemies Getafe until the 87th minute in a match with eight yellow and two red cards. Tuches Cucho Hernandez leveled and then, in the 95th minute, with just 60 seconds of stoppage time left, Getafe substitute Angel kneeled home with the ball after it bounced off Jaume Domenech's post. Keyword Valencian desolation.
Not only will their excruciating months-long winless run continue, but they put a lot of salt in that wound because it is the bloody, aggressive Getafe side that has waited until the last few seconds to get out of a defeat "victory." . "
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After the subsequent kick-off, only 45 seconds, Daniel Wass started a Hagel-Mary-Ball in Getafe's penalty area. Believe it or not, disasters are beginning for both Real Madrid and Pepe Bordalas from the southern suburbs of the Spanish capital.
Valencia Uruguayan striker Maxi Gomez is attacked by Getafe's street mart right-back. Damien & # 39; Rules apply to Suckers & # 39; Suarez. The hunt for the ball is so frantic that Getafe's captain Djene stumbles on his teammate's legs and bumps into Gomez to topple him. Penalty kick. PENALTY! And right after kick-off!
Complete and utter chaos breaks out. Meanwhile, Soler goes quietly and picks up the ball. He knows that when the storm subsides, his job is to be the designated survivor.
The penalty will be imposed in 95:27 minutes, but as Djene stomps through the penalty area refusing to accept Referee Jorge Figueroa's decision, he sways back and forth as he howls into the night and rants about the "injustice", time goes by and time goes by terrible, unfair pressure on Soler increases. Eventually Djene gives in to something like a power-sharing with the referee, Suarez is dismissed for persistent attempts to show the referee the mistake of his path, and Jaime Mata is booked for refusing to admit the penalty. To make matters worse, Djene Soler took the ball away and thrown it away in hand-to-hand combat.
Carlos Soler's later penalty against Getafe paved the way for his penalty shoot-out hat-trick against Real Madrid the following weekend. Photo by JOSE JORDAN / AFP) (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / AFP via Getty Images
At the time, the Valencia-born 23-year-old was a Champions League ball boy for his club when he played against Chelsea in 2011. then eight years later, the beginning of the next visit was scored by the Blues in Mestalla – they were able to take the penalty against Getafe, more than four minutes had passed.
Soler pondered the madness of a group of journalists on Friday, two days before his encounter with Madrid, and confessed that these minutes had been purgatory for him. Just before Getafe, one of Valencia's assistant coaches, Chema Sanz, had said to Soler, "Hey boy, we're going to get a penalty on this lot and you will take it. And you will score." ! "
"I had occasionally received penalties in shootouts throughout my career, but never in the league because Dani Parejo was always our kickkicker."
"When the referee blew the penalty against Getafe everyone started arguing about it and it felt like I had the ball in my hand for six or seven minutes. Except when Djene snatched it from me and headed it towards the corner threw and I started talking things through in my head like talking to a friend.
"But believe me, I had a demon on one shoulder and an angel on the other." The demon whispered to me: & # 39; F — it … what if you miss and there is no more time there to make up for us I'll lose! But I turned to the little angel and she said, "You see, if you do penalties every Friday and Saturday after your workout and get the vast majority of them, why not put these away too?"
"That was the internal debate that raged while everyone in front of me was arguing."
When the moment comes, Soler trots like the famous technique of Valencia legend Gaizka Mendieta – imagine the prancing Lipizzan stallions of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna – and buries the 2-2 equalizer.
Pressure? What pressure.
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Cut to a week later: same floor, opposite the goal, similar stress, except that he equalized against Madrid, the Spanish champions. From the moment Madrid "pinched" Mestalla's Predrag Mijatovic in the mid-1990s, there is no question that this is the game that Valencianistas are dying to win year after year – not Levante, not Barcelona, not Atleti, but Real Madrid. No question.
The penalty this time is clear: handball from Lucas Vazquez in front of the cross from Jose Gaya. But Soler's technique isn't quite razor-sharp. Thibaut Courtois dives fully to the right and parries the shot. Soler knocks the rebound off the far post and cannot react in time to lead him home, but young Yunus Musah is waiting to knock him home off his left foot.
Joy, relief, delay. 1-1 tie despite Soler suffering from the pain and embarrassment of missing only the second penalty he ever received in the league. Memories flooded in his head of his maternal grandparents, Rafa and Amalia, who picked him up and his brother from elementary school, drove them to their small village 5 km north of Valencia and ordered the two children to do their homework. Then one of Rafa or Amelia went into the goal (painted lines on the garden wall) so that five-year-old Carlos in particular could practice his shooting.
Ale Moreno blames Raphael Varane after Real Madrid's 4-1 loss to Valencia.
Rafa was the one who promised six-year-old Soler, shy as he was, that Grandad would give him a Gameboy if he agreed to sign up for the youth section of the local Bonrepos soccer club. There Carlos flourished until he was seven and scored a hat trick against the corresponding age group in Valencia in the biggest win in Bonrepos history. It was the same year that Rafa Benitez won the league and UEFA Cup doubles in Los Che before leaving for Liverpool in tears.
All this and many, many nights in which he and his young friends took their free places (as students of the youth system) in Mestalla and said to themselves: "Imagine you play here and you score goals and everyone is singing your name!"
Soler admits, "I thought, & # 39; F —! I don't think I can imagine that ever happening. & # 39;"
But it's Sunday night, La Liga's final game of the ninth round. Spain's star-studded but exhausted champions are 1-0 and they have just missed a penalty. What's worse, referee Gil Manzano runs to the VAR monitor to see if Yunus' goal doesn't need to be allowed. There have been interventions. And so it starts again, Carlos.
The penalty was given at 28:22 minutes. But it wasn't until 32:55 PM Manzano orders the replay, and at 34:12 PM Soler ran off to beat the giant Belgian goalkeeper Courtois, who appeared to be filling the gate for the first time even before he hit the save. Six minutes later, with so much driving, it is difficult to see the net on either side of its long telescopic arms.
In Soler's own words:
"While the VAR debate was going on, there was doubt that I would accept it if the referee didn't allow the goal. In fact, we had a moment when Daniel Wass would hit the replay.
"My method is to keep the ball off until I see the goalkeeper's slightest movement – and Courtois guessed which way the first one was going. He's great at holding back and waiting until the last moment before moving. Plus it's huge – if you don't put the ball right in the corner it'll get a hand on it, but I told myself that I practice this all the time, I score in practice and I go for VAR The goal wasn't admitted, but ordered another punishment, then I would go again.
"As I was preparing to run up the second time, of course, all the Madrid players told me that 'Courtois trained you!' And 'put it in the middle this time' and so on and right away.
"It comes with the territory. But last week against Getafe had shown me that I could score under pressure so I was confident – and when it got going it gave me great confidence when it came to the next two penalties."
It became the status heard around the world: never before had a referee given Madrid three penalties in more than a century of competition. Soler – admittedly not without blood, sweat, and tears – scored them all.
Many thanks to Gran and Grandad and their painted throat in the garden; Thanks to Lim for insisting on weeding out the high salaries and selling parejo to Villarreal; thanks to Djene and his tedious histrionics the week before.
Thanks to a demon and an angel standing on Soler's shoulders in a universal portrayal of "What if I fail / what if I succeed?" Debates that always plague each and every one of us and always will. And thanks to the fact that Valencia-daft Soler, the ball boy who is now their leader, really believed that practice makes perfect.
At least the perfect story.