Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane hailed an “important result” and performance after his team’s much-needed 4-1 La Liga win at Valencia on Saturday afternoon, pointing out especially the “personality” the team had shown after recent setbacks.
Two coolly converted first-half Cristiano Ronaldo penalties seemed to have set up Madrid for a comfortable afternoon, but Valencia came back through Santi Mina’s header at a corner and had chances to equalise, before late goals from Marcelo and Toni Kroos ensured the three points for Zidane’s side.
Although Madrid remain in fourth spot in La Liga, two points behind Valencia and well adrift of runaway leaders Barcelona, a first away win since late November will ease the pressure on Zidane ahead of the Champions League last-16 first leg at home to Paris Saint-Germain on Feb. 14.
And the Los Blancos coach told the post game news conference that Madrid had suffered at times but come through strongly for a deserved victory.
“I am very happy as it is an important result, not just the result, but we played very well,” Zidane said. “We had a lot of possession in the first half and when I see my players play like that I am happy.
“This is a difficult stadium, a team which has done fantastic in this league, were ahead of us in the table. I am very happy with how [my players] did physically, and also tactically.
“In the second half we suffered for a bit, which is normal, and Keylor [Navas] saved us. We must admit that. But within the game as a whole we deserved the victory. Winning like this, 4-1 here, is nothing easy, we must congratulate the players.”
The former galactico said his side had shown a lot of personality by putting in such a performance following their embarrassing midweek Copa del Rey exit to neighbours Leganes.
“The good thing in football is that when something bad happens you have another game three days later,” Zidane said. “Today was a big game, and we played with a lot of personality, it was important to show that we will be in there fighting.
“There is still a long way to go in La liga, we will do as well as possible. Then on the 14th we have a Champions League game.”
Madrid’s famous BBC strikeforce started together for the first time in 280 days, although both Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema were withdrawn before the end, with the Frenchman reacting angrily as he took his place on the bench.
“All players get angry when they are taken off, but that’s not important,” Zidane said. “The result is what counts in the end and Karim is happy, as we all are. Substitutions are to change the dynamic of the game.
“Lucas [Vazquez] worked very hard, Marco [Asensio] was involved in Marcelo’s goal and Mateo [Kovacic] with a one-two for Toni’s. Each one adds their grain of sand. We are all here to bring something to the team. And the three changes worked well for that.”
Speaking on BeIN Sports after the final whistle Navas said the squad were aware they had not been always at their best recently, but they would keep fighting all the way to the end in La Liga.
“We have played some good games, but it is no secret we’ve played badly at times, we’ve been aware,” the Costa Rica international said. “We need to be more consistent, but games like this will strengthen us. Valencia are a great opponent, they were at home, with their fans’ support, so they were going to make chances.
“We know that things are very difficult in La Liga, but we will give everything, and try to finish as high as possible.”
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