Carlo Ancelotti defended Gareth Bale and Xabi Alonso after Madrid’s shock 2-1 La Liga loss at Sevilla on Wednesday night, pointing out that his team’s general failure to defend counter-attacks was to blame for the defeat.
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Madrid went ahead early through a deflected Cristiano Ronaldo free kick and dominated possession throughout, but were hit on the break by two goals on the break by Sevilla striker Carlos Bacca.
The result -- coming straight after Sunday's 4-3 clasico defeat to Barcelona -- leaves Los Blancos third in the table, three points behind leaders Atletico Madrid, and two adrift of second-placed Barcelona.
Bale did not have a good evening, and was singled out in the Spanish press afterwards for being off the pitch changing his boots when Sevilla scored their second goal -- which started down his wing as Madrid players got drawn out of position, and Ivan Rakitic brilliantly flicked the ball over Pepe’s head -- and also apparently annoying Cristiano Ronaldo by taking a late 25-yard free kick and firing it over the bar.
At his postmatch news conference Ancelotti denied that Ronaldo -- who shouted to the bench just after the free-kick had been taken -- had been angry at Bale.
“Cristiano was annoyed because we were losing the game, just for that,” Ancelotti said.
More central to the defeat was Madrid’s inability to deal with Sevilla’s quick counter-attacks, with usually solid holding midfielder Alonso getting caught in possession in the move which led directly to Jose Antonio Reyes setting up Bacca’s first goal.
“We did not defend their counter-attacks well,” Ancelotti said. “[But] it is not problem of Xabi Alonso. Alonso made a mistake with a pass and control, but we needed to cover his shoulder. We did not do that twice and they scored twice.”
Alonso, 32, himself admitted in the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan mixed-zone he had been at fault in that incident, while saying the team in general had lost the defensive soundness which had been the backbone in the recent 31-game unbeaten run.
“We are losing the defensive strength which had been winning us games until now,” the Basque told El Larguero. “We were not solid in this sense, as we were also not at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday. We have made mistakes, starting with me in the ball I lost which cost us the equaliser. They did not do too much, but in two counters they scored two goals. They played on the break and were very strong at the back. We were not strong to contain their counter-attacks and up front we lacked the last pass to score.”
While Madrid have now lost two games on the bounce for the first time since 2008-09, Alonso cautioned about getting too carried away and said his team could well win all eight games remaining this season if they sorted out their defensive issues.
“This makes the situation in La Liga much more difficult, we have little margin for error,” he said. “It is a big step backwards. We need to look at ourselves, think what we have done wrong, to get our good form back. This is key for what remains of the season. We cannot drop another point. Above all, on the defensive side, we must get back that security for conceding few goals and being trusty. Any team can beat you, but it is not that before everything was perfect and now it is a disaster. Things must be corrected.”
Alonso also said he doubted Ronaldo had been personally angry at Bale, but just feeling -- like all his teammates -- frustration at an unexpected defeat.
“For sure it was because of the defeat,” he said. “Cristiano is no exception. That is everyone’s general feeling.”