Pochettino's macula

In search of the quarterfinals of the Champions League against Barça, it was in that round, but in the Cup, where he experienced his biggest setback. In Anduva. Espanyol returns on Saturday.


Mauricio Pochettino will try to complete, this Wednesday night, one of his most sentimental conquests, the elimination of Barcelona in the Champions League, in command of Paris Saint Germain, after the 1-4 of the first leg at the Camp Nou. A mission that would lead him to reach the quarter-finals that, changing competitions, are very relevant this week in the memory of those - like the Spanish-Argentine coach - who are active in Espanyol.

Very far from the majestic Park of the Princes, although paradoxically with more public than there will be tonight, 6,000 spectators - 180 of them, parakeets - Pochettino experienced the biggest blur of his career as a coach, on January 25, 2012. It was Anduva, the stadium that Espanyol returns to this coming Saturday with the obligation to win, after having left the direct promotion zone to First Division, and that that night became a real hell for the Sheriff of Murphy and his players, in the King's Cup. From the entrance, with a banner that read 'This is Anduva' in the style of 'This is Anfield', to a truly devastating end of the match for some and heroic for the locals, for a Mirandés who completed an authentic feat.

Seen with perspective, the precedents invited Pochettino to be careful. Not only did the Burgos come to eliminate two Primeras, but in the first leg, played in Cornellà-El Prat, they had commanded the scoreboard, with a 0-2, until in 84 'Espanyol took the lead and in five minutes came back with goals from Vladi Weiss, Rui Fonte and Joan Verdú. Precisely the absence of the Catalan midfielder in Anduva's lineup was the first point of controversy of a terrifying evening. "Ask him," Pochettino said of the substitution at the end of the game. "I had discomfort, I always want to play," concluded Verdú.

The script could not be written by more than a master of suspense, since Espanyol seemed to sentence the tie with a goal from Rui Fonte as soon as the second half began. But Pablo Infante, who became a celebrity in that tournament, tried in 58 'from outside the area and won a prize, with the involuntary collaboration of Raúl Baena, who got to touch the ball just enough to deflect it. And in the 92nd minute, the lateral foul occurred that overflowed the euphoria of the Mirandés and the despair of the parrots.

Whoever was in Anduva that frigid night will be able to remember that the goal was perceived in the atmosphere, long before Infante threw the free-kick. Long before Nauzet Alemán went up to the auction, adding epic to the affair. So it was. The ball reached the head of César Caneda - a veteran then, 33 years old, and more now, who continues to play in Second B at 42 - who connected to beat Kiko Casilla. 'This is Anduva', and so much so that it was.

With the madness installed in the coquettish stadium, Carlos Pouso, the local coach released: "I am happier than Mourinho, that the poor man is not happy even by winning God's." Much more content, obviously, was a Pochettino who considered elimination as "a very big stick" and stressed that not even having scored four goals in the two games had they been able to reach the semifinals.

Consequence or not of the "stick", curiously that Espanyol experienced a before and after its passage through Anduva. Before being measured with Mirandés, in LaLiga he was fifth classified and equaled on points with fourth, that is, shamelessly fighting for the Champions zone. Since his bleak night, he only added 14 points in the remaining 18 days, thus finishing in fourteenth position and only five points behind.

There is no doubt that Pochettino learned that January 25, 2012, as you only have to see his subsequent resume, reaching a Champions League final with Tottenham and currently again aspiring to everything with PSG. The ball is now in the court of Espanyol, which will seek revenge now that it returns to Anduva for the first time, and will try to reverse what happened then: that its visit to Mirandés means the end of a bad streak and the beginning of a career upward. He has no other choice.

Photos from as.com

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