Zidane happy despite below par Real show

Zinedine Zidane
FILE - In this March 26, 2015 file photo, former soccer player and current Real Madrid B team coach Zinedine Zidane waves to spectators prior to the international friendly soccer match between France and Brazil at the Stade de France, north of Paris, France. Real Madrid’s President Florentino Perez announced Monday Jan. 4, 2016 that current coach Rafael Benitez has been fired and former player and Real Madrid’s B team coach Zinedine Zidane will take over. Benitez, hired seven months ago, has been under pressure since a demoralising 4-0 home loss to Barcelona in November. The team won seven of nine matches since the defeat at the Bernabeu, but fans continued to call for Benitez's departure. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)

Madrid, Oct 24: Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane praised his team despite a below par performance following their hard fought victory over Athletic Bilbao which saw them take top spot in the Spanish top flight.

It was not a smooth performance by Real Madrid here on Sunday evening as they struggled to overcome a Bilbao side who were missing five of their first team regulars due to injuries.

The game could have gone either way in the second half and Inaki Williams could have earned a point for Bilbao had he not missed a great chance to equalise just minutes from the final whistle when he miscued a chip with Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas out of his ground.

“I don’t think it was a strange game, I thought it was a tough, difficult game. They made it hard for us but I’m happy with the result and the way the game turned out. We had to suffer a little because there is no such thing as an easy game, let alone against such tough opposition,” Zidane was quoted as saying by the Real Madrid website after the game.

“We could perhaps have had more or even less accuracy, but those players gave everything out there. These days there is no such thing as an easy game. You can’t win La Liga without suffering and working hard. We are Real Madrid and everyone seems to expect us to always score five or six goals, but that isn’t the case,” he added.

“There was no lack of attitude, we had opposition in front of us who played the game and made things difficult for us. I am happy with the work my players have put in. I liked everything that we did out there. My team look to me like they are raring to go and give all that they have.”

Real Madrid are now on 21 points after nine matches, a solitary point ahead of second placed Sevilla. Defending champions FC Barcelona and Villareal share the third spot with 19 points each.

“It will be this way throughout the season. You have to play well in every game, there are no easy games and you have to suffer right until the last. This is the message I give my players. Today we showed belief and we didn’t down tools, even in the hardest moments. We kept our cool until the goal and I’m both happy and satisfied,” Zidane said.

“We are all together and will continue to be together. What I am taking away from tonight is what we did as a unit, not looking at just one specific player. This is going to be a long journey and we will need everyone.” (IANS)