Real Madrid Coach Zinedine Zidane Fires Back At Critics


Zinedine Zidane saw reasons for optimism in Real Madrid’s draw at Villarreal on Saturday and had little interest in entertaining his critics. (More sports news)

Madrid returned to La Liga after the international break without key men Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema.

Seeking to respond to a 4-1 loss to Valencia last time around, the champions appeared to have done enough to win as Mariano Diaz – a first-time debutant in 18 months – scored after two minutes.

But Gerard Moreno’s penalty after a foul by Thibaut Courtois kept Madrid in fourth place, three points behind Real Sociedad.

Goals were the only shots on target at either end, although Villarreal had 13 attempts in total against Madrid’s six. Zidane still believed his team deserved the points.

“I think we deserved more, given what we’ve done,” he said. “Especially in the first half. We lost two points.

“I’m pissed off for the players for the effort they put in. I felt we could have taken all three points today and that’s a shame.”

Zidane had admitted before the game that there was pressure in Madrid, but he defended his hopeful prospects despite another difficult result.

“I continue to look forward to it,” he said. “You continue with what you do and I continue with my work.”

Other questions centered on three of his players: Mariano, who played in place of Benzema, Eden Hazard, back after contracting coronavirus, and Isco, only appearing as a substitute in the 65th minute.

Mariano has played 85 minutes, more than he has had in all league games combined since the start of last season (54), and scored with his lone shot while creating two chances for his teammates.

He won three of his eight duels but couldn’t see the match, Zidane said.

“The problem with Mariano is that he hasn’t played for a long time,” said the coach. “He was exhausted.”

Hazard’s display was slightly less impressive, failing to attempt a shot or play a key pass in over an hour.

“He’s here. He played,” Zidane said. “We have to manage the minutes well, but he’s with us and he’s good.”

Isco also had no say in the proceedings in an offensive sense and has only made three La Liga starts this quarter as he is linked with a January start.

“What happens inside will stay inside,” said his coach. “At the moment Isco is a Real Madrid player and is with us. There is nothing to say.”

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