The Valencia Derby: A game with more than 100 years of history

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Written by Alejandro Fernandez.

The city of Valencia has a special derby between Valencia CF and Levante UD, which has grown in recent years into one of Spanish football’s keenest local rivalries. This Valencia Derby, also known as the ‘Turia Derby’ for the river which runs through the centre of Spain’s third-biggest city, has really picked up steam in recent decades as Levante UD have established themselves in LaLiga Santander, with all the clashes and controversies that brings.

Los Granotas actually pre-date their local rivals by a decade, with Levante Futbol Club playing its first game in 1909, while based in the seaside El Cabanyal district of the city. Valencia Club de Futbol then arrived in 1919, closer to the centre, with the first official derby being played the following year in the Valencian Regional Championship.

When LaLiga began in 1928/29, Valencia began in the second tier, earning promotion to the top flight within just three seasons. Los Che quickly established themselves as one of Spain’s biggest clubs, winning a first LaLiga Santander title in 1941/42, and two more in the next five years.

Meanwhile, after merging with neighbours Gimnastico Futbol Club in 1939, Levante reached the second tier by 1945/46, and achieved a first promotion to the top flight in 1963. That meant the first Valencia Derby in LaLiga took place at Mestalla on 28th September 1963 with the home team winning 5-3, still the highest-scoring meeting to this day. Levante had their revenge the following January, with a 1-0 victory at their then home, the Estadio de Vallejo.

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Levante were again watching from lower divisions as the neighbours won the championship in 1970/71, 2001/02 and 2003/04. But promotion to La Liga for 2004/05 has led to the historically smaller team really establishing themselves at the top level, spending 14 of the last 18 seasons in La Liga.

The Valencia Derby is now a regular fixture in the city’s schedule, and Valencia have often had the upper hand, but they’ve never managed to win both home and away in the same season. Los Che’s 5-1 victory in 2007/08 at Levante’s current Estadi Ciutat de València – thanks to a David Villa hat-trick – remains the biggest winning margin by either side.

Levante’s 4-2 victory in 2006/07 is their biggest victory over the neighbours. Los Granotas have never won a La Liga game at Mestalla, but the goalless draw achieved there on the final day of 2010/11 was hugely celebrated as it secured safety from relegation.

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Such regular meetings have also increased the chances of controversy and incident. A ‘ghost goal’ by Valencia striker Mista in January 2005 is still debated today, while Levante supporters do not enjoy memories of a tight offside call as Valencia CF’s Juan Mata scored a derby winner in 2011.

Movement between the two sides is not uncommon. In fact, almost 100 players have represented both clubs through the decades, with legendary Dutch striker Faas Wilkes fondly remembered for the goals scored for each back in the 1960s. Montenegrin forward Predrag Mijatović also played for the two either side of the turn of the century, sandwiching a spell at Real Madrid. More recently Lucas Orbán, Vicente Rodriguez, Juanfran Garcia, Asier del Horno and Javier Farinos have worn both Valencia’s white and black and Levante’s blue and deep red colours. More recently, current Levante players Rubén Vezo, Roger Martí and Roberto Soldado all spent time on the books of Valencia.

Source by Football Espana

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