Zidane feels For­nals’ Real ‘ham­mer’ blow

But be­lea­guered boss de­clines to blame his un­der­per­form­ing squad

Sport360 - - La Liga News - By Phil Casey @pcaseysafc ed­i­to­rial@sport360.com

Real Madrid coach Zine­dine Zidane re­fused to crit­i­cise his play­ers as they suf­fered the “ham­mer blow” of a sec­ond-con­sec­u­tive home de­feat in La Liga.

Real reached the quar­ter-fi­nals of the Copa del Rey – where they will face Le­ganes – in mid­week, but started the day 16 points be­hind ri­vals Barcelona in the league.

And that mas­sive gap could be ex­tended to­day af­ter Zidane’s men lost 1-0 to Vil­lar­real, with Pablo For­nals ap­ply­ing a sub­lime fin­ish to an 87th-minute counter-at­tack for the Yel­low Sub­ma­rine, who had goal­keeper Ser­gio Asenjo to thank for a num­ber of vi­tal saves.

“It is hard to ex­plain. We tried ev­ery­thing,” Zidane said.

“We had clear chances, but the ball would not go in. There is no ex­pla­na­tion.

“This is a bad run that won’t stop and it is not good for my play­ers. I can’t crit­i­cise them. This is sim­ply a bad mo­ment and a tough de­feat to take on board be­cause we didn’t de­serve that.

“Amidst all the neg­a­tives we have to look for some pos­i­tives and on Thurs­day (in the Copa del Rey) we have a chance to put things right.

“We have done ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to win but this is what we’re left with. The ball didn’t want to go in.

“We tried as best we could and I can’t re­ally of­fer any ex­pla­na­tion.

“We have games still to come and we can turn this around. We have gone through good times but now we are up against it and we know that. We must fo­cus on what is go­ing to change.

“We must keep work­ing hard and win some games. To­day was a ham­mer blow but we are go­ing to turn things around on Thurs­day.”

Real had an early header from Gareth Bale cor­rectly ruled out for off­side, while Asenjo saved su­perbly from Marcelo and Cris­tiano Ron­aldo (twice) in the first half.

“It might be a men­tal as­pect that is stop­ping us from win­ning,” Zidane added. “When we are on a bad run, there are al­ways neg­a­tives to pick up on.

“We did ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to win and I hon­estly can­not re­proach my play­ers for their ac­tions.”

Can’t sink the Yel­low Sub­ma­rine: Vil­lar­real’s de­fend­ers kept Cris­tiano Ron­aldo (c) goal­less dur­ing yes­ter­day’s win at Real Madrid.

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