Castilla had made the play-offs, and were drawn against Cartagena FC - a team that were the top scorers of group four and finished in second place. Just like they had done all season, Castilla were going to have to defy the odds to do something truly special. And they were going to have to do it without Vinícius Júnior, who was not called upon by the club for this round at least. Although the Bernabéu was not at the teams disposal, they allowed the game to be accessed by the general public at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano, allowing for a decent crowd and atmosphere. Manolo Díaz had some big decisions to make, and he went for a 4-4-2 with both star strikers gaining a starting spot. Álex Martín was brought in to replace the suspended Adrián De la Fuente, whilst Javier Sánchez, Dani Fernández and Fran García joined him at the back. Jorge De Frutos and Álvaro Fidalgo operated out-wide, whilst Jaime Seoane and Martín Calderón sat in the centre. Luca Zidane started in goal.
Castilla XI against Cartagena: Zidane, Fernández, Sánchez(C), Martín, García, Calderón, Seoane, Fidalgo, De Frutos, González & Gómez.— Managing Madrid (@managingmadrid) May 25, 2019
Bench: Belman, Chust, Zabarte, López, Grau, Gelabert & Galván.#MMCastillaPlayOffLive pic.twitter.com/1DhfzKws3D
Cartagena was visibly the best team during the opening ten minutes, looking very nimble when in possession. Castilla defended well during this time and the visitors never really created anything, but there was still plenty of reason to be concerned. Castilla were however giving it a good go at the other end, and it was apparent that Jorge De Frutos amongst others were ready to bring the A-game. To survive here, Castilla were going to need certain individuals to step up. Remarkably, every single player decided to step up. Castilla took the lead after the ball came to Cristo González during an attack, and he dinked it through to Dani Gómez. Dani tapped the ball past the keeper to give Castilla a surprising lead, but they weren’t done there - by a long shot. Gómez would have a second not long later, after González found De Frutos, and the winger dashed into the box from the half way line before handing it on a plate for Dani to place into the corner. Before I was done typing about the second goal, it was three. Dani Gómez this time turning into the provider, playing in Cristo who went for a low shot past the keeper. Castilla were in euphoria. Cartagena were rattled, and Castilla could have easily had a fourth before half time. Gómez came very close to the hat-trick, but the defence and keeper did everything they could to put him off. The referees whistle blew to an eruption of cheers, and Castilla blew everyone away on the big stage.
Dani Gomez opens the scoring for Castilla in their 1st playoff game vs Cartagena. Assist from Cristo. pic.twitter.com/znoFV8YpAm— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) May 25, 2019
As you might imagine, the second half was far calmer. Castilla still did look the better side though, and really should have made their play count with an extra goal. Even more so when the visitors went down to ten men after their player was asking for a second yellow card with a challenge on Cristo. Jorge De Frutos and Cristo González came close to extending the lead, but there was another twist to add the the tale. Cartagena managed to pull one back after a decent ball was floated past the defence, and the attacker scored after attempting to beat Luca twice. The end of the game was one of the tensest parts, as both teams created half chances to score. In the end, the game finished at 3-1, and Castilla may well feel like they missed a chance to kill the tie dead during the first game.
De Frutos has been possessed on the flank today. Main source of offense. Sets up Dani Gomez for his 2nd: pic.twitter.com/Fba8tsZ6QC— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) May 25, 2019
Still, this was a truly amazing result. Castilla once again defied expectation to put themselves into the driving seat ahead of the second leg. Whilst the away goal does throw a spanner into the works, Castilla are now the favourites to progress to round two. The dream gets more and more real every time the team plays... Man of the match for this one was so hard to decide, as every player really showed up, so I left it down to you guys. You think that Jorge De Frutos deserved the title for a stellar performance tearing down that right hand side all game long. The next game is away, currently scheduled for Saturday the 1st of June. This seems like a necessary time to revisit the play-off structure and Castilla’s current position within it. If they can perform like they did today for five more games, then they can really do this. For now only one thing is for sure, this tie is not over yet.
Goals: Gómez x2 & González.
Assists: González, De Frutos & Gómez.
MOTM: De Frutos.