Whatever happened to: Deportivo Alaves?
Time for a bit of Tibs News time-travel now as we take a look at what happened to one of Spain’s all time flash-in-the-pan clubs, Deportivo Alaves.
Cast your mind back, the date is the 16th of May 2001 and the venue is Borussia Dortmund’s famous Westfalenstadion in western Germany.
One of English football’s giants, Liverpool, were preparing to take on a little known opposition in the form of Deportivo Alaves in the UEFA cup final (now known as the Europa league).
In fact the red’s Basque country opponents were so much of an unknown quantity that just three years prior the occasion, it would not have been deemed possible.
Alaves were in the Spanish second division and were far from guaranteed to be promoted to La Liga.
They did however make the step up to the top flight in 1998 and from there went from strength to strength, beating the mighty Barcelona twice en route to an astonishing sixth place finish in just their second season; thus qualifying for the 2000/01 UEFA cup.
Not just content on qualifying for European competition though, the Spaniards launched a fully-fledged assault on the competition.
In a season that saw the tournament structured in a straight knockout format rather than the more modern day group stages, many smaller clubs prospered and none more so than Alaves.
First they dispatched Turkish club Gaziantepspor, then claimed victory over Lillestrom before dumping out Rosenborg 4-2 to make it through to the fourth round where they faced their biggest challenge, Inter Milan.
This was the biggest scalp they took in the astonishing run as they defeated the Italian giants 2-0 at the San Siro to complete a fantastic 5-3 aggregate win.
Next up was fellow Spanish minnows Rayo Vallecano, who themselves were enjoying something of a magical adventure. It was soon ended as Alaves claimed a semi-final spot with an aggregate 4-2 victory.
In the last four it was just Kaiserslautern who stood between them and their dream final with either Liverpool or Barcelona and the determination to make the grade shone through.
Alaves tore into their German opponents in what has to go down as one of the most one-sided semi-finals of all time; winning 9-2 over the two legs. The Basques were on their way to Dortmund.
And so it arrived, the biggest match in their history and with Liverpool edging Barcelona by a single goal to nil in the other semi it would be an Anglo-Spanish final.
It would not disappoint.
After a frantic match the score stood at 4-3 to Gerard Houllier’s reds with a minute to go and all seemed lost before Jordi Cruyff, son of legendary Dutchman Johan, rose to head home and take the game to extra time.
Liverpool went on to edge the victory, they too craved, with a “golden” own-goal by Delfi Geli gifting them a first European trophy since 1984.
The reds may have won the match, but nobody involved that night will ever forget the way that a small club from Spain had one of the heavyweights of European football on the ropes only to be dealt a knockout blow.
In the seasons which followed on from that famous night, predictably the best players were sold on to pastures new and the team never quite recovered, eventually being relegated from La Liga in 2003.
From there the club yo-yoed between the top flight and the second division before succumbing to relegation to the third tier in 2009, they have remained there since.
As they once again look to revive their fortunes, Deportivo Alaves will always have that night in Dortmund to remind them that nothing is impossible.
By Jack Murphy
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