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In the season 2000-2001 Valencia CF once again reached the Champions League final. Finishing only 5th in La Liga, Valencia focused most of its resources on the international competition, a late goal from new signing John Carew helping them knock Arsenal out of the tournament in the quarter finals. The semis consisted of going against Leeds United, not present at that level for more than 25 years. Winning 3-0 at home following the goalless draw in the first match, Los Che became one of the relatively few clubs reaching consecutive finals, facing Bayern Munich. In the final itself, Valencia got a penalty kick straightaway, which was converted by captain Gaizka Mendieta. A few minutes later Mehmet Scholl failed to convert a penalty, which Santiago Cañizares saved, but Stefan Effenberg later scored from a second penalty kick. The penalty taking was not over, since the result was 1-1 after extra time, and Bayern got the upper hand in the shootout, with Valencia coming agonizingly close to becoming the third Spanish club to win the Champions League. Following the end of the season, Gaizka Mendieta was sold to Lazio for a club-record fee. Coach Héctor Cúper was recruited by Inter to break their title drought, being replaced by surprise choice Rafael Benítez.
Valencia vs Internazionale
Match Worn Shirt
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Valencia CF did not succeed in defending their La Liga title, finishing in 5th place. Los Che also got to the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions League, where former coach Héctor Cúper and Inter got the upper hand over Valencia and Rafael Benítez. The main player during the season was Pablo Aimar, who was the only player making waves in the season, where the previously solid defense did not perform as previously.
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The Champions League leg between Valencia and Internazionale was also remembered for a big fight between players happened in Valencia. The game was marred by a mass brawl at the final whistle in which the Italian side’s Argentine midfielder Nicolas Burdisso suffered a broken nose. Valencia, who drew 2-2 in the first leg, clinched a place in the quarter-finals on the away goals rule after holding Inter to a 0-0 draw at the Mestalla. But tempers flared at the final whistle with Valencia midfielder Carlos Marchena kicking out at Burdisso after exchanging words with the Argentine. The incident sparked the brawl and Valencia substitute David Navarro, who had not featured in the match, ran on to the middle of the pitch and punched Burdisso who fell to the ground. Several Inter players tried to trip up Navarro as he ran off the pitch and the fighting continued in the tunnel. Inter goalkeeper Francesco Toldo entered the Valencia dressing room, while Luis Figo and Inter’s Esteban Cambiasso were involved in scuffles as they tried to follow him with security guards having to intervene. Local media reported that Navarro was ushered away from the stadium. Inter coach Roberto Mancini said he was deeply disappointed by the incident. ‘A Valencia player went mad when he came on to the pitch and hit Burdisso,’ said Mancini. ‘He broke Burdisso’s nose. ‘Toldo saw the incident and it is possible he went into the Valencia dressing room. ‘Players have to learn how to behave on the pitch.’ Valencia striker David Villa said it was a shame to have ended the game in such disappointing fashion. ‘It was unnecessary, it was ugly and sad,’ the Spanish international told reporters. ‘At such times when emotions are running high there are some people who don’t know how to control themselves.’ Valencia coach Quique Sanchez Flores said he hoped his team would not receive a heavy punishment as a result of the incidents. ‘There was a problem between Marchena and Burdisso at the final whistle and Navarro intervened mistakenly,’ he told reporters. ‘It was an error by the whole team to get involved. ‘I hope we will be given a minimum punishment and that it will affect the team as little as possible. ‘There was a lot of confusion in the dressing room and people were out of order. It took a long time for people to calm down, but these things sometimes happen in football.’