Coach Benitez laments missed chances as Real eager to close gap

Madrid, Dec 14 (IANS) Real Madrid suffered a setback as they lost to Villarreal on Sunday night after a string of five wins which came following the Clasico defeat to FC Barcelona.

Shakhtar Donetsk, Eibar (the smallest football club in La Liga), Getafe, Cadiz and Malmo, who travelled to Madrid basically to take photographs of the Santiago Bernabeu and paid the price for that, had proved to be the perfect rivals to help forget the 0-4 drubbing by Barcelona. But when Real Madrid were handed a tough test in the El Madrigal Stadium, they failed it totally, reports Xinhua.

A goal by former Real Madrid striker Roberto Soldado in the eighth minute, his first since August, was enough to send Benitez’s men crashing to defeat and instead of closing the gap at the top of the table to just two points, they now find themselves five behind Barcelona and joint leaders Atletico Madrid.

Fit again central defender Sergio Ramos fumed after the game that “you can’t speculate with the result… we went out to see what they would do”. It is a hint that he is unhappy at the tactics of the much-criticised Benitez, while the tactician himself, struggled to find the reasons for Madrid’s poor first half showing.

“It’s difficult to explain: Sometimes these things happen in football and today, it happened to us. In the first half we didn’t play well at all. We didn’t do what we have planned,” he said.

However, Benitez rejected claims his side had said goodbye to the league title.

“No,” he said, adding, “we’ve lost three points… I am happy with how the team reacted in the second half.”

Benitez insists his side is not more defensive than that of his predecessor Carlo Ancelotti, but the numbers speak differently showing they have scored 23 goals less than at the same time last year, when the Italian was at the helm.

“We’re still the team with most shots on target in the league but we need to be more effective in front of goal. It’s about being effective,” he explained.

Real Madrid now have a home game against Rayo Vallecano and Real Sociedad to help get their campaign back on track, but the feeling remains that the next time they face a serious test, the same thing will happen.

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