Saturday 25 November 2017

Zidane says Madrid will have to fight until the bitter end in title race following Marcelo winner over Valencia

Head coach Zinedine Zidane of Real Madrid looks on during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Valencia CF at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 29, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Pedro Castillo/Real Madrid via Getty Images)
Head coach Zinedine Zidane of Real Madrid looks on during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Valencia CF at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 29, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Pedro Castillo/Real Madrid via Getty Images)

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane praised his team's determination after a late goal from Marcelo secured a 2-1 win over Valencia at the Bernabeu to keep the pressure on LaLiga title rivals Barcelona.

Having recovered from their El Classico defeat by winning 6-2 at Deportivo La Coruna on Wednesday night, Real took the lead after 27 minutes through a header from Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Portugal forward, however, then saw a second-half penalty saved by Diego Alves after Dani Parejo was ruled to have pulled down Luca Modric.

It looked to have been a costly miss when Valencia midfielder Parejo crashed in an angled free-kick from 25 yards to equalise with just eight minutes left.

However, Marcelo produced another late show for Real at the Bernabeu when he cut inside from the left to clip a low shot into the bottom corner which keeps the destiny of the title race in their own hands.

"I am pleased with everyone's performance. Valencia kept playing their game and we couldn't find the second goal to kill the game off. We're going to have to dig in until the end," Zidane said at Real's post-match press conference.

"We weren't clinical enough right from the start, perhaps we're a bit anxious or tense, but we didn't let it get the better of us, we played our game and did a good job.

"If you don't finish the game off, you're going to struggle. Today we had chances to close the game out earlier, so that's something we can still improve on. It's true that we had half-an-hour when we slipped into our comfort zone, but that changed after the Valencia goal.

"The fans got behind us again after we conceded the goal and helped to drive the players on and there was a different feel to it.

"We know the stats about our goals in the final minutes, that's what makes football such a beautiful game and you can't spend too much time analysing things.

"I can't explain the reason for it, but it is special to win it in the last 10 minutes, it is thrilling".

With perhaps with one eye on next week's Champions League semi-final first leg against city rivals Atletico, Zidane made eight changes from Wednesday night's match, as both Isco and Marco Asensio had to again be content with a place on the bench.

Zidane confirmed the absence of French defender Raphael Varane was precautionary.

"He'll be available for Tuesday. He made his return against Deportivo, but now at the end of the season we have to be careful with Varane," he said.

"There is nothing wrong with him, but we can't be taking any risks.

"Last time round he picked up another injury and I don't want that to happen again. I want him to rest up. With the injury to Pepe, we can't be taking any risks".

Valencia goalkeeper Alves, meanwhile, felt his side had been worth a point.

"We are leaving with a bit of a sour taste in the mouth," Alves said on en.valenciacf.com.

"We were good defensively and managed to equalise near the end, but then they reacted and they can beat you with one move. A draw would have been fairer."

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