Defiant Solari calls for patience

MADRID • Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari said that his team's efforts to rediscover their best form would not be a "path of roses", after the club suffered their heaviest-ever European home defeat on Wednesday.

The Champions League holders crashed to a 3-0 loss to Russia's CSKA Moscow at the Santiago Bernabeu, although they had already qualified as Group G winners before the kick-off.

"I played a team with a lot of young players," said Argentinian Solari, who made seven changes to the team who beat Huesca 1-0 in LaLiga at the weekend.

"The match was used to give many players time who needed it, some because they started and others because they returned from injury, and to give rest to others to try and stay alive in all competitions."

Real had never lost by three goals at home in European competitions before Wednesday's defeat, according to Uefa.com.

The Spanish giants have struggled for much of this campaign after seeing coach Zinedine Zidane and star player Cristiano Ronaldo leave in the close season, with Julen Lopetegui sacked as boss in October.

But, under Solari, Real have enjoyed a revival of sorts with four wins in five games helping them close the gap on LaLiga leaders Barcelona to five points.

"I know it's not a path of roses, and besides, every rose has its thorns," Solari added.

"We don't like this result, we wanted to finish with a victory."

However, CSKA's remarkable victory - their second over Real in this Champions League campaign after a 1-0 home success in October - was not enough to secure them a spot in the Europa League as they were pipped to third place in the group by Viktoria Plzen.

CSKA finished bottom on seven points due to their inferior head-to-head record against Plzen, who beat Roma 2-1 in the other match.

Real remained on 12 points while Roma, who had clinched second place in the group, ended on nine.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2018, with the headline 'Defiant Solari calls for patience'. Print Edition | Subscribe