Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said his team had “lacked a bit of everything, especially intensity” when drawing 3-3 in Wednesday night’s Group F game at Legia Warsaw.
Played in front of an empty stadium — except for a small group of travelling fans — due to serious violent incidents involving Legia fans, early goals from Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema appeared to have Madrid set for a straightforward victory. But before either side of half-time Legia’s Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe and Miroslav Radovic scored from long range to make it 2-2.
A crazy game got even crazier when Thibault Moulin curled in a 25-yarder, and then Mateo Kovacic equalised from the edge of the area, while substitute Lucas Vazquez almost won it for the visitors but his 93rd-minute shot rebounded off the crossbar.
The Los Blancos coach told his postmatch news conference that it was difficult to analyse what he had just seen — but his team had been punished for dropping their intensity when 2-0 ahead and apparently in control.
“I wanted to win the game, the players too,” Zidane said. “We also could have lost, the way it went. I cannot say much more to analyse what happened, it was a very strange game. We lacked a bit of everything, especially intensity, everything, above all after we had scored twice.
“When that happens, and the opposition score, it is difficult. I am responsible for all this. In the end we did not lose, which is good for us, but the feeling is strange, yes.”
Asked if his decision to start four forwards in Bale, Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata had unbalanced his side tactically, Zidane repeated that a lack of concentration after going two goals up was more to blame.
“There are many things to analyse — the whole content of the game, and each of the players,” Zidane said. “When you go 2-0 up there is a moment when you must think a bit more and be a bit more together as a team. We did not do that, we let the opponent have more space, and when they score then the game becomes more difficult. I was looking to win the game, with two forwards, but as a 4-4-2 more than a 4-2-4. It can seem like that, but the idea is 4-4-2.”
Borussia Dortmund’s 1-0 win at home to Sporting Lisbon in Group F’s other game means that Madrid will likely now have to win both their final matches — away at Sporting Lisbon and at home to Dortmund — to qualify as first seeds for the last 16.
“For sure it is more difficult [to win group], but we always think the same,” Zidane said. “The next game is the most important. We are away, and then we will have a big rival at home. It does not change anything for us, we can still finish first, and we will aim for that.”
Madrid have now kept just two clean sheets in 16 games this season, with Keylor Navas having already conceded more goals [five] than when Real won the competition last year. Zidane said the issue was not just about his defence, and again mentioned that more intensity would solve what was going wrong.
“I’m not worried about this,” Zidane said. “We know we can improve, and we must improve. We need to keep working, and try for this not to happen to us again. But as I said here yesterday, in football these things can happen, if you do not put in the necessary intensity, the opponent can make things difficult for you. After they scored it was another game. But I am happy with the defence, as it is not just an issue for them.”
The unusual atmosphere inside the ground, with the stands almost completely empty, had not helped his side but was “no excuse”, Zidane said.
“For sure [it was an issue] but that is not an excuse,” he said. “We knew this before the game, that without fans we would need to concentrate fully. It was a bit strange, but we cannot do anything about that.”
- Real Madrid held in thriller at Warsaw, Tottenham beaten, Leicester draw
- Jurgen Klopp joins Ranieri and Pochettino on Fifa shortlist of Manager of the Year
- Arsene Wenger praises Mesut Ozil’s decision-making on Arsenal winner
Culled from ESPNFC