Zinedine Zidane 'cannot explain' Real Madrid's scoring woes
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said he could not explain his team's continuing struggles in front of goal, after another setback in Saturday afternoon's 1-0 La Liga defeat at home to Villarreal.
The first 45 minutes brought a Gareth Bale header correctly ruled out for offside, a Cristiano Ronaldo free kick tipped onto the crossbar by Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo, and a Ronaldo penalty claim turned down.
After the break, ex-Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Asensio saved from Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, and Zidane's side reached 28 shots without finding the net. Before with four minutes remaining Villarreal broke and midfielder Pablo Fornals lifted a sweet chip over Keylor Navas to put the visitors on the way to their first-ever league win at the Bernabeu.
With his team still 16 points behind runaway La Liga leaders Barcelona, and having won just one of their last five games in all competitions, the Los Blancos coach told the postgame news conference that his team had done everything they could.
"The first thing is it is difficult," Zidane said. "We did everything, we had many chances to score in the game, and the ball did not want to go in. You cannot explain that.
"It is a bad run, which continues, so it is difficult for my players. I cannot reproach my players for what they have done. It is a difficult defeat as we did not deserve this blow today."
Combined with the 3-0 El Clasico loss to Barcelona last month, Real Madrid have now failed to score in consecutive home games in La Liga for the first time since February 2007, one of which was a draw. The last time Real Madrid were shut out in consecutive home league defeats came in May 2000.
After Madrid broke their own mark with the most shots of any team in La Liga this season with 28 -- including 11 efforts from misfiring galactico Cristiano Ronaldo -- Zidane said his team needed a big win to lift confidence and the gloom around the club.
"Within all the negative you must look for the positive," Zidane said. "We had many good things, and now we are living a hard moment. We can change this, get out of this, by winning games, and winning well.
"I hope that is Thursday [in the Copa del Rey], or Sunday. And that win will change things. We have to keep thinking we can do that. We must keep working hard and thinking of winning the next game."
Asked if his team were too predictable tactically, Zidane returned to the idea of his team making plenty of chances to score but not taking them.
"We had chances, shots, could have scored," Zidane said. "In football there are two teams, and what you must do is score a goal more than the opponent. And we tried that. I don't know if we are predictable, we prepare for games. Not taking chances is not a question of being predictable."
Next up for Madrid is Thursday's Copa del Rey quarterfinal first leg at neighbours Leganes, while the Champions League last-16 first leg at home to Paris Saint-Germain on Feb. 14 is looming into view.
"We know the situation, we have the Copa, and the Champions League in a month," Zidane said. "It is a difficult situation, we have never experienced it. It is difficult for the players. We are hurting from this blow, but we are not going to change our mentality, to move forward, and to fight.
"[The problem] could be mental, as this hurts, when you do not win. We are going to keep going, we still have things to show that we are here, and that we are Real Madrid. There is still life, hope, and in football the good thing is you have another game every three days.
"When things go well you must confirm it, when they are going bad you have the chance to change it. We must stick together, think of each other, as we need that to change the situation."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan