Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane was left cursing his team’s misfortune after Espanyol forward Gerard Moreno struck late to inflict a fifth Liga defeat this term on the Spanish champions.
Espanyol’s 1-0 victory with a 93rd minute goal was the Catalan outfit’s first over the Madrid side in 11 years.
The result leaves Real in third place, a whopping 14 points adrift of leaders Barcelona and seven behind city rivals Atletico in second spot, with both rivals having a game in hand.
It represents a huge fall from the standards set last season When Real they claimed a domestic title and European Cup double.
While they have one foot in the last eight of the Champions League with a 3-1 first-leg win over Paris St-Germain, Zidane was at a loss to explain a La Liga campaign that has seen them lose to Real Betis, Girona, Barca, Villarreal and now Espanyol.
To put the results into context, Real only lost three times in the domestic league in whole of last season.
“Sometimes you just cannot understand this sport,” Zidane told BeIN Sports. “You have to take the bad times when they come, though.
“After five good results, playing well, unfortunately we just couldn’t do it today. We started well but just didn’t take our chances.”
It is not the first time Zidane has suggested things just did not quite fall right for Real on the night, yet at Cornella the biggest errors were his own tactical decisions.
After seeing Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale all return to form with the goals in the weekend 4-0 victory over Alaves, his decision to omit two of his ‘BBC’ attacking triumvirate from the side was questionable.
Benzema put in what has widely been acclaimed as his best performance of the season on Saturday but the French striker was relegated to the bench in Catalonia.
Ronaldo is Madrid’s top scorer this season with 14 goals in La Liga – and has netted 12 in his last seven appearances in all competitions – but was omitted completely from the matchday squad a week ahead of the return leg against PSG.
That meant Bale was deployed as a central striker but, one early header aside, the Welshman put in an insipid display that will only serve to reignite the debate in local media about his role in the team.
Zidane, however, declined to apportion blame.
“Things just didn’t quite go right and there’s many reasons behind that,” he said. “It’s not because of one player at all.
“I’m angry for my players, because they conceded a goal in the last minute in a game in which the opposition did not enjoy many chances. It’s tough but we’ll bounce back.”