Real smarting after Cup knockout quashes treble dreams

Celta Vigo's defence thwarts Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese scored, but it was not enough as Celta dumped Real out of the Copa del Rey, winning 4-3 on aggregate to progress to the semi-finals.
Celta Vigo's defence thwarts Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese scored, but it was not enough as Celta dumped Real out of the Copa del Rey, winning 4-3 on aggregate to progress to the semi-finals.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

MADRID • Real Madrid will recover their killer instinct in front of goal, coach Zinedine Zidane warned as his side's treble ambitions ended with elimination from the Copa del Rey at the hands of Celta Vigo on Wednesday.

A 2-2 draw at Balaidos saw Celta progress to the semi-finals 4-3 on aggregate as Real Madrid have failed to win in three of their last four games, following a Spanish record 40-match unbeaten run.

Zidane said: "I am not worried, nor angry. Lately we've chances that we haven't taken, that will change."

Just as in Saturday's 2-1 win over Malaga both Real's goals on the night came from set-pieces.

However, Cristiano Ronaldo's stunning free-kick and Lucas Vazquez's injury-time header from a corner were not enough, as Celta twice went in front through a Danilo own goal and Daniel Wass' calm finish five minutes from time.

Zidane rejected the claim that his side lack creativity, particularly with Luka Modric and James Rodriguez sidelined by injury.

The Frenchman said: "It is true that we didn't score from open play. There were two more goals from dead balls, but tactically we played a great game. We played very well and that we pushed the opponents all the way to the end."

Real were missing seven first-team regulars with Gareth Bale, Marcelo, Dani Carvajal, Pepe and Raphael Varane also out.

However, Vazquez believes it is unfair on those who came into the side to claim they were badly missed.

He said: "We have shown throughout the whole season that whoever comes into the side responds. Perhaps it is a bit opportunistic to say that today we missed the absentees."

In contrast, Celta are now three games away from landing their first-ever major trophy.

Celta boss Eduardo Berizzo's decision to make eight changes at the weekend in a 1-0 defeat by Real Sociedad to ensure his players were well-rested, proved justified as the hosts withstood a second-half onslaught.

"The players were capable of knocking out a giant like Real Madrid," said Berizzo. "We knew we would have to suffer. Madrid oblige you to have an almost heroic game in defence.

"Then when you have the chance to do them damage, you have to take it.

"I want to thank the fans for their support. The strength we feel together allows us to look to the future with excitement."

Real's resolve will be put to the test on Sunday against Real Sociedad, who are fifth in the league.

The European champions are still in pole position to win a first league title since 2012, leading nearest challengers Sevilla by a point and third-placed Barcelona by two with a game in hand on both teams.

City rivals Atletico Madrid cruised into the last four despite fielding an under-strength side after a 2-2 draw at Eibar secured a 5-2 aggregate win.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2017, with the headline 'Real smarting after Cup knockout quashes treble dreams'. Print Edition | Subscribe