Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane admitted his team had “lacked many things today” and “lost the game in the first 10 minutes” after conceding two quick goals on the way to losing 1-2 at Valencia on Wednesday evening.
Early goals by new signings Simone Zaza and Fabian Orellana put Valencia 2-0 up at Mestalla in a game rescheduled due to Madrid’s Club World Cup trip last December. Cristiano Ronaldo’s header just before half-time was then not enough as Zidane’s side blew a chance to move further ahead of Barcelona and Sevilla at the top of the table.
The Los Blancos coach told his postmatch news conference that his team’s lack of concentration in defence had cost them the chance to make use of one of two games they had in hand on their title rivals.
“The truth is we lost the game in the first 10 minutes,” Zidane said. “We started well with the ball, playing football, had a chance to score. But we made mistakes at the back, they had players between the lines all the time, and they scored two goals. We were very open, and they punished us. Then we had 80 minutes to come back into the game. We had chances to do that, but we lacked many things today. There was a chance to pick up points, which we did not do.”
Zidane threw on direct wingers Gareth Bale and Lucas Vazquez as he looked to find an equaliser in the second half, withdrawing playmaker Luka Modric as his team went more direct, but the manager denied that his side had shown a lack of ideas in possession.
“We did not do badly with the ball, on the contrary, we did well,” he said. “Maybe we lacked a bit of cleverness in the final pass, but that’s it. They defended very deep, together, were better than us in the air, and that’s that.”
Madrid remain a point clear of Barca at the top of the table, with Sevilla two points further back in third but now face a tricky trip to Villarreal on Sunday evening and have only won one of their last six games away from home. Zidane said tonight’s result had not changed his view that the title race would go down to the wire.
“I knew that before the game,” he said. “This was not going to end even if we had got three points today. Nothing changes, we are still ahead and we must think that not just by being on the pitch we will win the game. We are not looking for excuses, we must think about resting and the next game on Sunday.”
Following Madrid’s last La Liga defeat, they immediately lost again to Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey, with the team looking mentally affected by the experience. Zidane said he did not expect his team to suffer any ill-effects this time.
“I hope there is no [negative] effect,” he said. “We must always be attentive. In football if you are not focused for a moment, you are punished. We must be a bit more clever and in the first 10 minutes today we were not too clever or focused.
“We have a game on Sunday, we will rest now and think about that game. There was a chance to pick up points and we missed it. But congratulations to Valencia and we move on to the next game.”
One of the Madrid players at fault during the opening stages was centre-back Raphael Varane, who was given a torrid time by former West Ham striker Zaza and was substituted with 20 minutes remaining. Zidane said the France international had been replaced due to injury.
“[Varane] had a problem, a fitness issue, so we took him off,” he said without any further elaboration.
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