Zidane hails Real's spirit after breaking unbeaten mark

Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos celebrating after his 93rd-minute goal sealed the Spanish La Liga victory over Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday.
Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos celebrating after his 93rd-minute goal sealed the Spanish La Liga victory over Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BARCELONA • Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane paid tribute to his players' spirit after they battled back to beat Deportivo La Coruna 3-2 on Saturday and set a club record 35 games unbeaten in all competitions.

He had opted to rest top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as Karim Benzema and Luka Modric.

Alvaro Morata scored the opener for Real but Zidane's side were in danger of losing their long unbeaten run after two defensive slips in as many minutes allowed former Real striker Joselu to score a brace to put Deportivo ahead.

With their six-point lead over Barcelona at the top of the Primera Liga table at risk at being halved, Real again demonstrated a refusal to admit defeat that has underpinned Zidane's first full season in charge.

Substitute Mariano Diaz scored his first league goal for the club to pull them level before Sergio Ramos sealed victory in the 93rd minute.

  • 35

  • Number of games in all competitions Real Madrid have played without defeat, a club record.

The late fightback ensured Zidane's men have now surpassed Real's previous record mark of 34 games unbeaten from the 1988-89 season under Dutch coach Leo Beenhakker.

"We played a brilliant game and I'm so happy for the players," said Zidane. "We suffered a lot but they believed until the end. We made a few errors but that can always happen. We believed and we did it.

"The players work hard and give so much and they are always convinced things will go their way in the end. When you are behind, it's not easy but we kept calm until the end.

"We don't think we're invincible and we'll lose at some point. But the players know that thinking positively can help us. These 35 games give us the strength to keep looking forward."

Zidane also paid tribute to Ramos, who followed his 90th-minute leveller against Barcelona last week by powering in the winner deep in stoppage time.

"You can try and mark him but he's so clever and he has great movement and knows where the ball is going to drop," Zidane said. "You can try to stop him but it's very difficult. Deportivo have great defenders but there was still nothing they could do."

Ramos believes the European champions will ride the momentum of his injury-time winner into their quest to win the Club World Cup.

Real flew to Japan yesterday aiming to be crowned the world's best team for a fifth time.

"It wasn't a great performance. We made mistakes which were costly, but at the end we managed to turn it around," he said.

"That is the way we go into a competition like the Club World Cup."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2016, with the headline 'Zidane hails Real's spirit after breaking unbeaten mark'. Print Edition | Subscribe