SportsDi Stéfano's Valencia, leader against Madrid

Di Stéfano’s Valencia, leader against Madrid

On January 3, 1971, Madrid visited Valencia in a great emotional climate. First day of the year, first also of the second round. Di Stéfano was Valencia’s coach. The one from Madrid, Miguel Muñoz. Close friends, even roommates, when they played together, the relationship was spoiled when Muñoz, now a coach, removed Di Stéfano from the team after the 1964 European Cup final against Inter in Vienna.

Barça led the table, with 22 points, followed by Valencia and Atlético, with 21. Valencia had won 0-2 at Camp Nou, and Atlético 1-0 at Mestalla. Madrid was fourth, with 19. On the first day they had beaten Valencia 2-0, now they needed to beat them to establish themselves at the top and present a serious candidacy for the title. He was still not seen as a candidate, perhaps because he had not won the League since 46-47. It was too far away.

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In the week of the match there was a very notorious event. Madrid, which suffered a plague of injuries in the goal, decided to sign Pesudo, from Valencia. Pesudo had achieved great notoriety in the club at the end of the fifties, he went to Barça in 61 to succeed Ramallets and returned, after five years, to Valencia. But he was already 34 and had lost his job to Abelardo. For Madrid it represented a good solution. But the medical services surprisingly threw him back for finding one clavicle shorter than the other, something congenital that never prevented him from playing. In Valencia, and in all of Spain, he sounded like a humiliation to a very appreciated player, and still useful. In fact, then he would play two seasons at Betis, in First, and one more in Tarragona, in Second, until he retired with 37.

Madrid left on Friday in the sleeping car, as was usual at the time, with the idea of ​​waking up in Valencia. But the snowfall stopped the train in Bonete, at six in the morning. The train returns to Albacete, where several possibilities are examined: to go through Chinchilla-Hellín and Murcia to then go up through Alicante, with which they would have arrived in Valencia already at mid-morning on Sunday. Or return to Madrid to restart the trip by air, but there are no places. Or complete the journey in several taxis, but the road is also closed. Finally, at 5:05 p.m. the road opens and the journey is resumed.

They arrive at the hotel at 3:25 am on Sunday, after 28 hours on the train and fed with sandwiches. All this peppered with negotiations to postpone the match that annoyed the Valencian fans, impatient to play it. There was another anger prior to the Pesudo case: the Federation sent an observer to the party, which was only done in case something strange was expected. Two years before, Madrid had left Mestalla very unhappy with the referee, Franco Martínez, who was repeating now. Madrid was accused of having asked for the federative delegate, which the Madrilenians denied.

The atmosphere at Mestalla is passionate. That Christmas the club premiered the match program, the English model, given at the door. Abelardo and Pesudo were in the centrals. Sacks of confetti were also handed out. Madrid is received with anger, and theirs with fireworks and confetti. Valencia comes out with a black armband because the day before there had been a tremendous tragedy in Ibrox Park, with 66 deaths at Celtic-Glasgow. Valencia had a friendly match scheduled for Reyes with Celtic, which was suspended. Everything contributed to the emotional charge of the afternoon.

Di Stéfano’s failed Pesudo operation has put him in a bad mood. Having such a backup legend was awkward. Take out these eleven: Abelardo; Tatono, Aníbal, Antón; Sol, Claramunt; Claramunt II, Forment, Pellicer, Paquito and Sergio. Muñoz plays with: Borja; José Luis, Benito, Touriño; Pirri, Zoco: Miguel Pérez, Fleitas, Planelles, Velázquez and Bueno.

Valencia comes out like a motorcycle and corners Madrid. Borja delays the goal until 32 ‘, when Forment culminates a good escape from Sergio. In the second half, Valencia saves their clothes, waits and breaks Madrid’s attacks with the offside trap, into which Fleitas and Bueno repeatedly fall. He reaches a goal through Miguel Pérez, but Franco Martínez notices the raised flag and cancels it. The match ends 1-0, between fireworks. In the press conference, Muñoz loses the papers for the annulment of the goal.

At the same time, Barça lost at home to Athletic. Valencia is the leader for the first time, tied with Atlético, but with a better goal quotient, and is definitely regarded as a candidate. He will win that League, with the match on the last day of his defeat in Sarrià, with the tie at Manzanares between Atlético and Barça.

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