MADRID (AP) — After watching his team collapse late in extra time against third-division club Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey, Zinedine Zidane turned his back on the field and smiled in disbelief.
Real Madrid conceded late against its 10-man opponent on Wednesday to squander yet another trophy chance this season. The embarrassing 2-1 loss in the round of 32 added to Madrid’s recent struggles and left Zidane under increased pressure.
Critics had already been after Zidane after Madrid’s loss to Athletic Bilbao in the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup a week ago, which followed a scoreless draw for the defending champions against relegation-threatened Osasuna in the Spanish league.
Madrid has won only one of its last five matches in all competitions with lackluster performances recently by players such as Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard. The team has looked overwhelmed and unresponsive, with Zidane unable to avoid questions about his job security.
“People always talk about that when we lose,” Zidane said. “I take the responsibility for the loss and whatever happens, happens. I’m not worried. The players have always tried to win and sometimes it works out differently. Every defeat is painful. Neither I nor my players like to lose. Let’s see what happens in the coming days.”
Zidane said he doesn’t feel like he has lost control over his players in the locker room.
“I believe my players have faith in me, but you’ll have to ask them,” he said. “We haven’t done many good things recently, but we’ve also done some good things this season. But we are still very much in the race for the league and the Champions League. We have to stay focused because we can still win things.”
Madrid beat Celta Vigo 2-0 to start the year but was coming off a draw against struggling Elche in its last league game of 2020. Madrid trails Atlético Madrid by four points and has played two more games than its rival. In the Champions League, Madrid will face Atalanta in the round of 16.
The 48-year-old Zidane is in his second stint as Madrid’s coach. The former French great led the club to three straight Champions League titles from 2016-18 before taking a year off and returning in 2019. He has never succeeded in the Copa del Rey, though, seeing his team eliminated by teams such as Celta Vigo, Leganés and Real Sociedad.
“It’s a difficult moment,” he said. “We are out of the Copa again. We should have done things differently but we couldn’t do it.”
Madrid’s next match is at relegation-threatened Alavés in the Spanish league on Saturday.
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