Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti admitted his team had not played well and said his plan to rest a tired Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t work in the end, after they were beaten 2-0 at Atletico Madrid in their Copa del Rey last 16 first leg.
Coach Ancelotti left superstar attacker Ronaldo out of his starting XI, while Fernando Torres made his first start since re-joining Atletico on loan. Neither side impressed in attack during a goalless first half.
Atletico went ahead just after the break through a Raul Garcia penalty kick, and even with Ronaldo immediately introduced, Madrid’s hopes of making the last eight took a big blow when teenage defender Jose Maria Gimenez headed in a late corner kick.
The Blancos coach told his post-match news conference at the Estadio Vicente Calderon that his plan had been working well until the Sergio Ramos penalty for pulling down Garcia in the box, but after that concession his side were not able to react.
“Cristiano was a bit tired so we thought not to play him the full game, for him to come on in the second half,” said Ancelotti. “In the first half we needed more efficiency on the ball, and vertical passes, but the game was under control until the penalty. In the last part of the game we did not play so well.”
Ancelotti said his team had made it easier for Atletico to defend with their passing, while also praising the organisation and work-rate of Diego Simeone‘s men.
“We lacked depth in general, there were a lot of sideways passes,” he said. “But it is very difficult to play against Atletico. They defend very well, always together, always organised. We needed more verticality in our play.”
Gareth Bale, criticised by local pundits for his performance in Madrid’s 2-1 La Liga loss at Valencia last weekend, did not play badly according to Ancelotti.
“Today there was no problem with Bale, just with the team,” he said. “Karim [Benzema] did not have many chances either. There were not many chances in general. Bale had a goal ruled out for offside, but it was difficult game to get chances.”
Madrid have now lost twice on the bounce — three times including a friendly loss to Inter Milan on the holiday break — after having won each of their last 22 games in all competitions. The Italian characteristically raised an eyebrow when a reporter asked if the team was now in crisis.
“‘Crisis seems a bit exaggerated to me,” he said. “We are not happy, and we need to win quickly again. We must do that in our next game against Espanyol [on Saturday in La Liga]. And there is another game left in this tie, anything can happen in football.”
Ancelotti went on to say he thought his side retained a chance of turning things around in next Thursday’s second leg at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
“It is clear we are not out of this,” he said. “We have a chance. Of course Atletico have an advantage, but we are at home and anything can happen. We do not have a big chance to go through, but with the players we have, we will do everything we can.”