Pressure piles on Zizzou

Friday, January 22nd, 2021 00:00 |
Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane. Photo/AFP

Madrid, Thursday

Zinedine Zidane insisted his players still believe in him after Real Madrid suffered an embarrassing defeat by third-tier side Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.

La Liga’s reigning champions lost 2-1 to Alcoyano, who scored a remarkable winner in extra-time after having a man sent off.

Real Madrid have now won only once in their last five games, with an extraordinary loss heaping more pressure on Zidane.

Asked if he still had the backing of the players, Zidane said: “Yes I believe so, you have to ask them. We’ve done good things this season, apart from the last four games.

Now we have La Liga and the Champions League and we have to work. Whether my message gets through, you have to ask them, I can’t answer that.”

Zidane took responsibility for the defeat.

“I’m the coach, it’s my fault,” he said. “I am responsible, the players have tried but well, we’re out.”

Zidane rotated his starting line-up but a team that included the likes of Marcelo, Isco, Casemiro and Vinicius Junior should have had enough to beat opponents sitting fourth in their division in Segunda B.

And when Zidane threw on the likes of Eden Hazard, Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos as substitutes to put the game to bed, the opposite happened, as Alcoyano, a man down, scored the winner, Juanan diverting in at the near post to pull off an incredible upset.

Alcoyano have not graced Spain’s top flight since 1951 and their El Collao stadium holds less than 5,000 spectators. The only shame here was their fans were not able to see it.

They were comfortable in the first period but Madrid scored with their first chance on the stroke of half-time as Marcelo’s delivery to the back post found a diving Eder Militao, who headed in.

But Madrid still laboured in the second half, even after Benzema replaced Mariano Diaz, and Alcoyano equalised in the 82nd minute, a corner flicked on by Ramon Lopez to the back post, where the sleeping Vinicius allowed Jose Solbes a simple finish.

Lucas Vazquez went close with a late header and then Madrid could have had a penalty when Angel booted Militao in a scramble in the box. But without VAR to check, Alcoyano survived.

Hazard, Marco Asensio and Kroos all came on for extra-time while Ramon Lopez went off, a late challenge on Casemiro earning him a second yellow card and leaving his team to play the final 11 minutes with 10 men.

Lopez sat watching with his head in his hands, fearing presumably what he assumed would be a Madrid winner.

Instead, his team did it without him, Ali Diakite’s cross poked home by Juanan at the front post to complete an astonishing victory. -AFP

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