Top 5 Copa Del Rey shocks of the century: Will Real Madrid slip up again?

Restructured in recent years, the Copa del Rey has served up its fair share of shocks and the past couple of decades has delivered a number of embarrassing nights for Real Madrid at small grounds around Spain. While Los Blancos are the current holders of the trophy, they feature heavily in our top 5 Copa del Rey shocks of the century and will be hoping to avoid a repeat when their 2023/24 cup campaign gets underway this weekend.

Top 5 Copa del Rey shocks of the century

2008/09 – Real Union 3-2 Real Madrid

Real Union players celebrate
Real Union score again in the 2nd Leg against Real Madrid – Photo by Icon Sport

The Copa del Rey used to run with a two-legged format which made it even harder for small clubs to be giant killers. That didn’t stop third tier Real Union in a remarkable Round of 32 tie in 2008 though.

The historic Basque club won the Copa del Rey three times during its formative years, but with their most recent success being 1927, nobody gave them a shot against the might of Real Madrid.

They raced into the lead in the home leg of their tie against Bernd Schuster’s side in October 2008 though, ultimately winning the game 3-2. To some extent, the best was still to come though. While they lost a dramatic return leg 4-3 at the Bernabeu, the result was still enough for the minnows to advance on away goals.

It helped spell the end for Schuster’s reign with the German leaving his post as Real Madrid boss only a month later.

2009/10 – Alcorcon 4-0 Real Madrid

Ruud van Nistelrooy for Real Madrid
Ruud van Nistelrooy in the 2nd Leg as Real Madrid failed to turn a 4-0 deficit around – Photo by Icon Sport

Perhaps the most famous Copa del Rey upset of all time took place the following season and again it involved Real Madrid.

Dubbed “Alcorconazo”, a 4-0 defeat for Los Blancos away to their tiny city rivals caused a storm in the Spanish press and was without doubt one of the most humiliating nights in the otherwise illustrious career of then Real Madrid boss Manuel Pellegrini.

It wasn’t even as if the Chilean sent the kids out. Real Madrid’s starting eleven that night included the likes of Karim Benzema and Raul while Liverpool’s Champions League winning goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek was between the sticks as four Alcorcon goals flew past him.

The Segunda B side were beaten 1-0 in the 2nd Leg to secure a comfortable 4-1 aggregate win.

2017/18 – Athletic Club 0-1 Formentera

Only Barcelona have won the Copa del Rey more times than Athletic Club de Bilbao, but the Basque giants endured one of their darkest moments in the competition in 2017.

Already undergoing a difficult season under the guidance of the recently appointed Jose Angel Ziganda, things got a whole lot worse for the new boss against tiny SD Formentera who had only recently won promotion to the third tier.

After an uninspiring 1-1 draw on the picturesque Balearic Island, the two sides played out 95 goalless minutes in the return clash at San Mames. Then, disaster struck for the already restless home fans, as the minnows snatched a decisive winning goal six minutes into Stoppage Time to seal a famous upset.

2019/20 – Cultural Leonesa 2-1 Atletico Madrid (AET)

Top 5 Copa Del Rey shocks of the century
Cultural celebrate scoring against their top flight opponents – Photo by Icon Sport

The 2019/20 Copa del Rey was the first since the change to single-legged ties up to the Semi-Finals and the new format also gave far more smaller clubs a shot at pulling off a giant killing act.

It didn’t take long for the upsets to appear and one of the biggest was in the Round of 32 as Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid succumbed to a 2-1 defeat away to third tier Cultural Leonesa.

Sergio Benito scored the decisive goal in the Second Half of Extra Time for hosts in front of a big crowd at the Estadio Reino de León. The shocks kept coming with Athletic Club and Real Sociedad defeating Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively in the Quarter Finals and the two Basque clubs would go on to meet in the Final.

2020/21 – Alcoyano 2-1 Real Madrid (AET)

Alcoyano beat Real Madrid
Alcoyano players celebrate their famous win – Photo by Icon Sport

The following season, it was Real Madrid’s turn again to be on the end of a humbling cup upset. Again it was the Last 32, the first hurdle for Los Blancos and they were drawn away to third tier Alcoyano meaning a trip to the Estadio El Collao with a capacity of less than 4,000.

With the likes of Vini Junior, Casemiro, Eder Militao and Fede Valverde in their eleven, it shouldn’t have been a real test for Real Madrid and they led the game 1-0 heading into the final ten minutes.

However there was a real sting in the tail as the hosts fired in a late leveller to take the game to Extra Time where Alcoyano scored a 115th winner through Juan Antonio Casanova Vidal. The underdogs had been reduced to ten men by that point, making the final scoreline even more remarkable.

It was the lowest point across Zinedine Zidane’s two reigns as Real Madrid boss and he left the club at the end of a trophyless season.

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Mark Sochon

Mark is a freelance football writer based in Madrid. He regularly attends and covers La Liga matches around Spain, whilst also following football across Europe.