As Zinedine Zidane rested Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of next week’s visit to Paris St-Germain in the Champions League last 16, the Spanish champions suffered a defeat at the hands of 13th placed Espanyol. Real currently are third on 51 points from 26 games, fourteen points behind league leaders Barcelona.
Espanyol’s Gerard Moreno scored on an extra time volley that deflected off French defender Rafael Varane to squeeze out their first victory over the Los Blancos in 11 years. Despite opening the game to a steady start, the Zidane-led Madrid team looked below-par throughout the game.
From losing just 3 games in the entire domestic games last season, this signals a huge fall from the standards set last season when Real they claimed a domestic title and European Cup double. This is the fifth La Liga defeat faced this season by the reigning champions.
The Real Madrid manager said,“We really didn’t deserve to ship that goal. We played really well in the first half but couldn’t score. The second half wasn’t good but nevertheless we didn’t deserve to concede in the final minute. Espanyol had a few chances and we deserved more. That’s football and we now have to look forward.”
“Things just didn’t quite go right and there are many reasons behind that,” he said. “It’s not because of one player at all. I’m angry for my players, because they conceded a goal in the last minute in a game in which the opposition did not enjoy many chances. It’s tough but we’ll bounce back,” Zidane said speaking at the post-math press conference at the Cornella Stadium.
Real will play PSG in the second leg of Champions League round of 16 on the 7th of March. The Brazilian forward Neymar is injured and will be out for at least six weeks, missing out on the crucial European game.