Real Madrid still searching for best form despite Dortmund win - Zidane
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said his team are still searching for consistency after Wednesday's rollercoaster 3-2 Champions League Group H win over Borussia Dortmund at the Bernabeu.
With the reigning UCL champions already sure to finish second behind group winners Tottenham, Zidane rotated his side. But they still eased into an 2-0 lead inside 13 minutes through Borja Mayoral's neat clipped finish and Cristiano Ronaldo's 20 yard curler, which brought another record for the Portuguese as the first player ever to score in all six UCL group games in the same season.
The pace of the game then eased considerably, and Christian Pulisic and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had chances to equalise, before Aubameyang did cut the deficit just before the break with a diving header from Marcel Schmelzer's cross. It was then 2-2 soon after half-time when boyhood Madrid fan Aubameyang chipped home at the second attempt, after being sent clear by a beautiful Shinji Kagawa flick.
Current competition topscorer Ronaldo was unable to convert a couple of further chances, and was angered by an offside flag when he did then find the net. Lucas Vazquez then knocked in the winner with 10 minutes remaining.
The Los Blancos coach told his postgame news conference that the team had started and ended the game well, but were still short of their best form.
"It was a very good start to the game, and a good end to the game," Zidane said. "In between it cost us a bit, but I am happy with the game and being through again. What we want is to put together three or four or five good games, to recover our best play.
"We are not playing with consistency, but that is the idea. I am happy for Borja, and for Cristiano. It is not easy when you know you are already through, against a team who had a lot on the line. In the end we played a serious game, and ended the group in a good way."
Madrid's possible opponents in Monday's UCL round-of-16 draw are Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Roma, or Besiktas.
"On Monday we will see who we get, but knowing that it will be a difficult opponent," Zidane said. "I do not care really, in February the team will be going well."
There was bad news for Madrid with centre-back Raphael Varane limping off -- meaning that injuries and suspensions could leave Zidane with only one available senior centre-half in Nacho Fernandez for Saturday's La Liga game at home to Sevilla.
"Rafa has been hurt, we will have tests tomorrow," Zidane said. "He said it is not too much. We will see. He will not be there on Saturday for sure. We will see with [youngster] Jesus [Vallejo], he does not have much, but we will have to see.
"We will find a solution to overcome this and put out a team on Saturday. [Midfielder Marcos] Llorente knows this position, has played there before, we will see."
Zidane denied that the team's struggles recently had lead the club's hierarchy to reverse a previous stance against signing any new players in the winter transfer window.
"There is a chance, we can sign players when the market opens on January 1," he said. "Nothing has changed, we always have that possibility, and we will see what might happen. Every year we look at it to see if we sign someone or not."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan