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Why did Valencia’s reserve centre-back turn into Tyson Fury against Inter Milan in 2007?

A goalless draw between Valencia and Inter Milan in the Champions League turned into an all out brawl in 2007

A 0-0 draw has never been so explosive.

The date was 6 March 2007. The teams involved were Valencia and Inter Milan.

This is the story of the Battle of the Mestalla. A Royal Rumble never seen before or since in the Champions League.


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Slightly more than handbags

Reuters
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Slightly more than handbags

What was on the line?

Progression to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, that’s what.

Valencia had twice come from behind in a pulsating first-leg in Italy, with David Villa and David Silva equalising strikes from Esteban Cambiasso and Maicon.

Those away goals would come in very handy at the Mestalla.

Honours even after the first round

Reuters
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Honours even after the first round

Immovable object meets the unstoppable force

Okay, maybe that’s slightly over the top.

But Inter lined up for the second-leg with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Hernan Crespo up front. Hair, flair and goals.

Charged with stopping Ibrahimovic and Crespo were Valencia’s centre-back pairing of Roberto Ayala and Raul Albiol. The veteran and the academy graduate.

David Navarro was on the bench, which would be a crucial factor at the end of the game.

All that hair

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All that hair

Inter get what they deserve for taking the safety first approach

Clearly wary of the two away goals Valencia had in their back pocket, Inter took a defensive approach.

Olivier Dacourt and Javier Zanetti started with the more adventurous Luis Figo and Santiago Solari left on the bench.

The plan backfired, as Valencia and Inter played out a goalless draw ensuring the Spaniards went through on away goals.

And breathe…

AP:Associated Press
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And breathe…

Now that the football’s out the way

So it began. Referee Wolfgang Stark blew his whistle to signify the end of the game and the start of the boxing.

Carlos Marchena and Nicolas Burdisso were the first to clash. Zlatan and Hugo Viana stepped in to break it up with the latter having his hair pulled. All fairly tame.

What this fight really needed was a villain. Enter Navarro.

With accuracy that Anthony Joshua would have been proud of he let the right hand go, breaking Burdisso’s nose in the process.

AP:Associated Press
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Inter players chased after him, with Ivan Cordoba landing a kick on the fleeing defender before being put in a headlock by another tracksuited member of the Valencia mafia.

Maicon also landed a kick on Navarro as the pair met in a Matrix-style face off.

But, while melees continued to erupt on the pitch and in the stands, Navarro sneaked off down the tunnel to the safety of his dressing room.

Straight outta’ The Matrix

Reuters
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Straight outta’ The Matrix

Half a year to think about his actions

For his part in the madness Navarro was given a seven-month ban, which was later reduced to half a year.

Marchena, Burdisso, Cordoba and Maicon were also fined and charged by UEFA for what was deemed to be ‘gross unsporting conduct’.

Fair cop.