Spluttering Real Madrid 'did what they had to do' vs. Numancia - Zidane
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said he was satisfied with his team's performance after their 2-2 draw against Segunda side Numancia on Wednesday night sealed a 5-3 aggregate passage to the Copa del Rey quarterfinals, but did not do much to lift the current gloom around the Bernabeu.
With galacticos Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale among the first-teamers rested, Lucas Vazquez opened the scoring on just 10 minutes by heading in a Dani Carvajal cross, only for Numancia to get a deserved equaliser just before half-time when a sweeping counter-attack was finished off by substitute centre-forward Guillermo.
Vazquez put Madrid back in front just before the hour mark, hooking home from close range, after Borja Mayoral nodded down Marco Asensio's cross. That should really have been that, but Numancia equalised again when ex-Athletic Bilbao youngster Guillermo flashed a super header into the net for 2-2 with nine minutes remaining and the minnows pressed until the end for a winner.
While the underwhelming performance was enough to put Madrid into Friday's Copa quarterfinal draw, the Los Blancos coach told his postgame news conference that he was satisfied that the heavily rotated side had got the job done.
"It is not easy for the players who play less," Zidane said. "We played a good game. We maybe lacked a bit of gas at the end.
"The opponent came here, ran until the end whatever happened. If you dip physically a bit, this can happen.
"But I am happy with the performance of them all, I'm happy these players got more minutes, and the first leg [3-0 victory] was important. The pity is the goal before half-time, and also a goal at the end.
"But apart from that we had a good game, and they did what they had to do."
A half-empty Bernabeu was not impressed by the European Champions drawing against opponents who have only five top flight seasons across their entire history. Local reporters pressed Zidane on whether the team had hit rock bottom -- considering they are also currently 16 points adrift of runaway La Liga leaders Barcelona.
"We are recovering things, for me, and we will," he said. "With my players and staying relaxed, without problems. All the questions, things you think about bad play or whatever, it could be.
"But we are convinced we will move forward. Today I am happy with those who played today. I am satisfied across the two games, and the players too."
Zidane clarified recent comments about his long term commitment to the job, saying he was under contract until 2020, but was also realistic about what happened to Madrid coaches when results were not as expected.
"The contract is signed, for two more years," he said. "But I always go game by game, year after year. I do not think further than that.
"That is how it is. I enjoy what I am doing day to day. I cannot think two or three years down the line, as I know how it is here, even having a contract, which means nothing."
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