Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said that belief was the key after his team survived a huge scare in Wednesday’s Champions League quarterfinal second leg to eliminate Juventus
Cristiano Ronaldo’s controversial 97th-minute penalty ensured Los Blancos’ passage into the last four of the competition, 4-3 aggregate, after nearly throwing away a 3-0 first-leg advantage.
Zidane told the postgame news conference that his team had suffered after conceding Mario Mandzukic’s second-minute opener, but had kept believing and eventually achieved progress which was deserved over the two legs.
“If you concede in the first minute, your head goes down, and it gives them life,” Zidane said. “Then they played very well, and we were bad — not in chances, as we made chances, but we had a bit of difficulty in managing our game.
“But we believed until the end that we would go through. And I believe that across the two games we deserved to make the semis. We can be happy with that.”
Zidane declined to get involved in any debate over whether Michael Oliver’s penalty decision had been correct or not while saying he had not been surprised that Ronaldo had kept his cool to convert.
“They told me it was a penalty,” he said. “I did not see it. And anyway the referee gave it, we cannot change that. But I believe it was a penalty.
“We should not talk now, we are in the semis, happy with that, and that’s all. Cristiano is used to that [pressure]. In the end, he scored it, and that’s it, we go home with the victory.”
The former Galactico had surprisingly brought Gareth Bale into the XI for a first Champions League start since September, then replaced the Wales international at half-time during a double tactical switch.
“They played a great game, with a very good plan from their coach,” Zidane said. “We had to change the shape of the team, and it changed the dynamic of the game.
“Lucas [Vazquez] and Marco [Asensio] brought more energy, it had to be done, but it was not anything against Gareth or Casemiro.”