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May 8, 2014

Ancelotti blamed for Real title slip-up

The FC crew discusses the shake-up in the La Liga title race.

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti's substitutions were responsible for Wednesday's 1-1 draw with Valladolid which severely dented Los Blancos' title hopes, according to his opposite number.

Rigg: Night to forget for Real

Madrid were 1-0 up at half-time in what was a must-win game for their La Liga title chances but they appeared to lose their grip on the game after half-time at the Estadio Jose Zorilla. The home side pressed more and more as Ancelotti removed attack-minded Isco and Karim Benzema for the more defensive Asier Illarramendi and Marcelo, and were rewarded in the 85th minute with Humberto Osorio's equaliser.

A second surprise draw in four days left Madrid needing major slip-ups from both leaders Atletico Madrid and second-placed Barcelona to have any chance of winning the title, while the point lifted Valladolid out of the relegation places with just two games remaining.

Valladolid coach Juan Ignacio Martinez told his postmatch news conference that he felt Ancelotti's substitutions had contributed to the swing in the game's momentum.

"We were reeling at 0-1 down but we were able to react," Martinez said. "The game had lots of ups and downs. We finished it playing in their half and with a lot of possession, provoking a fear in Madrid which their own boss, with his changes, transferred to his team."

Ancelotti gave a different explanation to reporters afterwards, saying that following their impressive 4-0 Champions League win at Bayern Munich his players had not been able to locate the "mental energy" required for La Liga.

"We had the match under control for 70 minutes, but then we started defending deep and conceded a goal from a dead-ball situation," the Italian coach said. "It wasn't a case of a lack of attitude because [goalkeeper] Iker [Casillas] hardly had a thing to do all night.

"We made a few mistakes as we lacked the mental energy for a match of this kind, near the end of the season. Physically we're fine, [but] it's difficult to recoup that energy, which is so important at this stage of the season, after playing in a Champions League semifinal."

The Blancos boss admitted that being four points behind Atletico with two games to play, and with Barcelona also having their destiny in their own hands, made it almost impossible for Madrid to win the title.

"Winning La Liga will be very difficult, but it's still mathematically possible," Ancelotti said. "We have to carry on and win our remaining two La Liga games. I'm not concerned about who the favourites are to win the title."

Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso was clearly angry with his side's second successive under-par performance when he spoke with reporters in the mixed zone.

"This is practically over for us now," Alonso said. "More than anything I am annoyed with the team because we have not realised how important the second 45 minutes were.

"After going ahead, when it got difficult in the second half, we did not keep that intensity to close out the game. In the second half we really took our foot off the pedal, we did not have the concentration and intensity necessary for a game of this importance. I hope it is not repeated because it was not a game in which we could let our guard down."

Alonso said his teammates would have to be sure not to make such mistakes in the upcoming Champions League final against local rivals Atletico Madrid on May 24.

"These are moments which we cannot repeat," he said. "Ahead of Lisbon the motivation is obviously maximum, and nothing like this should happen. But still we should have known that La Liga is very difficult, and keep making demands of ourselves. In just one game, if you drop a little, you are not able to get yourself going."

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