No mercy for Real as news­pa­pers ham­mer ‘ap­a­thetic’ per­for­mance

The Mercury - - SPORT -

BARCELONA: Real Madrid’s first ever trip to Wem­b­ley to face Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur in the Cham­pi­ons League on Wed­nes­day will come as a wel­come dis­trac­tion to the Euro­pean and Liga hold­ers in the midst of their worst do­mes­tic run of re­sults in five years.

Sun­day’s shock 2-1 de­feat to Liga new­com­ers Girona saw them fall eight points be­hind arch ri­vals Barcelona in the stand­ings, the big­gest gap they have faced with a league leader since their fi­nal tur­bu­lent cam­paign un­der Jose Mour­inho in 2012/13.

Madrid were also de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons in the Por­tuguese’s fi­nal cam­paign but came un­stuck at the start of the sea­son, drop­ping eight points in their first four games while Barcelona raced ahead, even­tu­ally fin­ish­ing 15 clear of Madrid. The feel­ing in the Span­ish sports press af­ter Zine­dine Zi­dane’s side threw away a 1-0 lead at half­time was one of res­ig­na­tion about Madrid’s fal­ter­ing cam­paign, as the 32times Liga cham­pi­ons have never man­aged to win the ti­tle af­ter fall­ing eight points be­hind the lead­ers. “Madrid vote no to La Liga”, ran a head­line in Marca, al­lud­ing to the po­lit­i­cal un­der­tones of Sun­day’s game at Girona, Real’s first trip to the trou­bled re­gion of Cat­alo­nia since a banned ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence on Oc­to­ber 1 sparked Spain’s worst po­lit­i­cal cri­sis in 39 years.

Only Madrid’s goalscorer Isco and for­ward Karim Ben­zema were ex­empt from crit­i­cism in Marca, which crit­i­cised Cris­tiano Ron­aldo for only scor­ing once this cam­paign and called out Marcelo, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and cap­tain Ser­gio Ramos for un­con­vinc­ing dis­plays.

“Isco is out on his own”, ran the cover of AS, while ABC de­scribed Madrid as “ap­a­thetic”, call­ing the de­feat the team’s worst per­for­mance since Zi­dane took over at the club in Jan­uary 2016.

The French coach said Real had lost the game due to two lapses of con­cen­tra­tion in the space of four min­utes which lead to Cristhian Stu­ani’s equaliser and Portu’s win­ner.

“What I’m most an­noyed about is not killing the game off when we had the chance to do it,” the coach said. “I’m not wor­ried about a lack of in­ten­sity nor en­thu­si­asm, th­ese re­sults can hap­pen in the league but we’ll keep on work­ing hard. I’m not wor­ried. We didn’t ex­pect this af­ter win­ning four games in a row but we still want to win the league.” – Reuters

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