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Jan 29, 2014

Casillas: Record testament to defence

Iker Casillas says his new Real Madrid record of over 11 hours without conceding is testament to how well the players are defending as a team.

Train: Jese takes centre stage
Rigg: Lopez a stopper for all seasons

After Tuesday’s 1-0 win in the Copa del Rey quarterfinal second leg against Espanyol at the Bernabeu, the Spain goalkeeper has now gone 682 minutes without letting in a goal, surpassing the previous record of 658 minutes, set by Paco Buyo during the 1994-95 season.

Madrid have now won all eight games played in 2014, keeping clean sheets each time, and long-serving Blancos captain Casillas, 32, said: “This speaks well of the team.

“I am happy as things are coming together well. It was important not to concede to make sure we progressed, and the team has been phenomenal defensively. We did not give the opponent any chances. You must give the team 10 out of 10. I was not personally thinking about the record.”

Despite Casillas’ achievement, he is still only playing in the Copa del Rey and Champions League games as Diego Lopez remains coach Carlo Ancelotti’s first choice for La Liga.

Casillas told AS that he was now looking forward to playing in the upcoming semifinals against either Atletico Madrid or Athletic Bilbao, while any thoughts he may have had in recent months about leaving the club had now passed.

“For me it was important to go through as then I can play the two games in the semifinals,” Casillas said. “I have already said I am going to stay, that is my dream, my idea, and my necessity. I am with this team since I was small. I want to enjoy the three years I have left [on contract] and, if I can, to play even beyond that for Real Madrid.”

Madrid’s goal in Tuesday’s game was scored after just six minutes by young striker Jese Rodriguez, who expertly controlled a precise long ball from Xabi Alonso before coolly beating Espanyol keeper Kiko Casilla at his near post.

The 20-year-old, who now has four goals and five assists in just over 600 minutes of mostly substitute appearances this season, told Canal Plus after the game that he was ambitious and determined to work hard to prove himself worthy of time on the pitch.

“I am going to try to score 10 goals this season,” Jese said. “I must work. I did not expect any more or less than this. I have worked my socks off at training, but in football you never know how things will go. It is going well for me at the moment.”

Ancelotti told his news conference after the game that Gareth Bale would likely return to the starting lineup for Sunday’s tough La Liga game at Athletic Bilbao -- a state of affairs that youth-team graduate Jese said he accepts.

“Bale is a great player,” Jese said. “He is a great professional and we all trust in him. As I say, the coach’s first choice is Bale. I need to take advantage of my chances. I am playing the minutes I get, leaving my life out there on the pitch.”

Speaking later on radio show El Larguero, Jese showed he is not short of confidence by saying another target of his was to win the Ballon d’Or within the next four or five years.

“I have to go step by step, first to earn a place in this team, which is very difficult, but within four years I could be up there,” he said. “Four or five years. It is a dream for me. I believe I have the talent for that, but always respecting the teammates I have beside me from who I learn so much every day.”

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