Zidane insists he's calm despite Cup humiliation

MADRID • Zinedine Zidane has insisted his players still believe in him after Real Madrid suffered an embarrassing last-32 defeat by minnows Alcoyano in the King's Cup on Wednesday.

The La Liga champions lost 2-1 to the third-tier side, who scored a remarkable winner in extra time after having a man sent off.

Real have won only once in their last five games and the Cup exit heaps more pressure on Zidane, who came in for heavy fire from Spanish media in the aftermath of the upset.

Madrid-based news outlet Marca yesterday called it "the worst defeat of the Zidane era", referencing how Alcoyano have not played top-flight football since 1951.

The Frenchman has won 11 trophies across two managerial spells with Real but this season has not gone to plan, with his side also trailing leaders Atletico Madrid (41) in La Liga by four points despite having played two more games.

But when asked if he still had the backing of his players, Zidane was defiant, saying: "Yes I believe so, you have to ask them. We've done good things this season, apart from the last four games.

"Now we have La Liga and the Champions League, and we have to work. Whether my message gets through, you have to ask them, I can't answer that.

"There is always talk whenever we lose... and what has to happen will happen. I am very calm."

While Zidane took responsibility for the upset, he also insisted it was less of a shock than his critics are making it out to be.

"It's not an embarrassment, it's something that can always happen in football," he added.

"Something like this can happen in a footballer's career, but I take responsibility for it. We're not going to go crazy over this. I'm the coach, it's my fault."

He rotated his first XI but a team that included the likes of Vinicius Jr, Marcelo, Isco and Casemiro should have had enough to beat their lowly opponents.

Eder Militao gave Real the lead, only for Jose Solbes to equalise for the hosts 10 minutes from time despite the visitors having thrown on Eden Hazard, Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos. Ramon Lopez was sent off in extra time but Juanan Casanova still managed to divert in at the near post to pull off his club's biggest win.

Elsewhere, Real Sociedad, who will play last season's delayed Cup final against Athletic Bilbao on April 4, advanced to the last 16 after a parting gift by Willian Jose.

The Brazilian striker, who is set to move to Wolverhampton Wanderers on loan, netted a double to dispatch third-tier Cordoba 2-0 away.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2021, with the headline 'Zidane insists he's calm despite Cup humiliation'. Subscribe