How Caballé conquered the Alfredo di Stéfano
There was a moment during the first half of the season that Pep Caballé was the happiest man on the island. The midfielder from Menorca scored both goals which gave Ibiza an important away win against Real Madrid Castilla at their Valdebebas ground. Things looked much different though three minutes into the encounter when Fidalgo put the home side one goal up against Pablo Alfaro’s men. “We played Real Madrid Castilla at what you could say was the trickiest moment of the season so far. We had been coming off two disappointing results at home and a draw away to Oviedo B”, says Caballé, as he thinks back to the clash back in November.
At that particular moment, Caballé had only featured in the starting line-up on one occasion in eleven matches. That particular Sunday, 10 November, was well and truly a day to remember for Caballé as he made his starting eleven return and delighted head coach Alfaro. Signing with Ibiza after playing 141 matches for Cornellà, Caballé arrived at Can Misses on the back of scoring eight goals over his five seasons spent at Baix Llobregat. Scoring a brace in one match, however, had never happened to him before. Until he took to the Alfredo di Stéfano. “I’m not a born goalscorer”, says Pep, “but I try to take my chances when they present themselves”. In the 35th minute it was time for his first goal after an inch perfect cross delivered by David Morillas: “During training sessions, the míster always reminded us that Mori is not one who tends to deliver crosses to the far post. When I saw that he was about to deliver a cross, I lost my marker to find myself alone in the box. The cross was brilliant. I struck the ball with the inside of my boot and as soon as I hit it, I knew it was going into the back of the net. I was so happy to score my first goal for Ibiza in a match of that magnitude”.
His strike put Ibiza level before the first half had come to an end. The Sky Blues returned from the sheds convinced that they could get all three points at Valdebebas. Again, it was Pep who scored four minutes after the second half got underway. His second goal came on the back of a sublime piece of combination play by Ibiza all the way from the back via Germán, Rodado, Javi Pérez and Raí. Four players and four touches were enough for the ball to arrive once again at Caballé’s feet who had left the Madrid defence behind him thanks to his speed. In the words of Ibiza’s number 8:
-For the second goal, as soon as Rodado touched the ball, I saw that there was an opening on the right flank. I took advantage of that to position myself there in order to receive the pass of Raí positioned in front of goal.
His shot was unstoppable for Real Madrid Castilla’s Belman. “Those of us who travelled to Madrid returned absolutely ecstatic [about the second goal], because Castilla made things very difficult for us, especially during the first thirty minutes of the match. We were fully supporting Pep prior to this match, because we knew of his trajectory at Cornellà and were confident that in a game like this one, he could come up big for us and that’s what he did. He definitely was the man-of-the-match that day”, says Rubén Torres, one of the members of the Penya Pagesa fan club that travelled to Valdebebas.
What followed were nine victories, four draws and two losses – away to Celta B and against FC Barcelona in the Copa del Rey – in the next fifteen matches that took place after the trip to Valdebebas. Thanks to those statistics, Ibiza climbed its way to the top spots of the ladder in Group I of Segunda B and reached the round of 32 in the cup competition. Confidence grew not only within the team after that away trip to Madrid, but also among the club’s many fans, especially those two hundred who travelled to Valdebebas. “During the days prior to the away day”, remembers Alfredo Riera, member of the Peña Corsarios fan club, “we were desperately looking for drums to hire in Madrid. We prepared flags and banners, because it was our first proper away day of the season, and in big numbers at that. We arrived at the ground over an hour prior supporting the team from their arrival to the warm-up and the match itself. Even when we went a goal down, we didn’t stop believing in the lads. Both of our goals left us with indescribable sensations, whether it was the players celebrating with us in the away end, the resulting lunch celebrating the win, the return trip being completely exhausted… it was a day to remember indeed”. “Real Madrid’s facilities at Valdebebas are spectacular. You can breathe football in every corner. From the moment we entered the sports complex there, we knew that it would be a special match”, explains Caballé, who five years ago had played a Copa del Rey match at the Santiago Bernabéu. On 2 December 2014, he took to the famous ground representing Cornellà in what was an unforgettable experience. For Caballé, however, his two goals against Real Madrid Castilla at the Alfredo di Stéfano are still more special.