Zidane won’t resign as Madrid’s Champions League hopes hang in the balance

Zinedine Zidane vowed he would not quit as Real Madrid head coach after a shattering defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk left their Champions League campaign in chaos.

Madrid slumped to third place in Group B after a 2-0 defeat to Shakhtar – the Ukrainian side that also beat the LaLiga champions in the Spanish capital in October.

Amid deteriorating domestic form, the Champions League had been the salvation for Madrid in November, as they beat Inter home and away.

But now pressure will mount on Zidane, the club legend who was arguably the ultimate Galactico before coaching the team to three consecutive Champions League titles from 2016 to 2018.

Madrid dearly needed a positive result in Kiev, where Donetsk play their home games, but goals from substitutes Dentinho and Manor Solomon scuppered such hopes.

“I am not going to resign,” Zidane said. “We have had difficult moments. This is a bad run in terms of results. It is reality, but we must continue.

“We know that today was a final and we prepared for it very well. We had a great first half, but we couldn’t score.

“There is one game left and we have to win it.”

There were still routes open for 13-time winners Madrid to reach the knockout stage as their players trudged off the pitch, but they were narrowing.

Madrid face group leaders Borussia Monchengladbach in the final round of group games.

LaLiga giants Madrid have reached the Champions League last 16 for 23 successive seasons, dating back to well before Zidane joined as a player.

Yet with their two defeats to Shakhtar, Madrid have now lost as many group games in this season’s competition as they did under Zidane’s leadership during the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2019-20 campaigns combined.

“I have strength and I will give it my all as always, like the players,” Zidane said, quoted by Marca.

Madrid lost 2-1 at home to Deportivo Alaves on Saturday, and that arguably flattered Zidane’s team, who trail early leaders Real Sociedad by seven points.

They had 15 shots to Shakhtar’s seven on Tuesday, led the corner count 11-2 and had 58.1 per cent of possession, according to Opta.

But even in games where Madrid are dominating, they are finding it is not always enough to bring the rewards they feel should come their way.

Raphael Varane was caught out for the Shakhtar opener and the Madrid defender has made three errors that have cost goals in this calendar year, which at full-time in Kiev was more than any other player had committed in the competition.

Madrid have shipped nine goals in five games – the most they have ever conceded at this stage in the group phase of the competition.

“In the league we didn’t deserve to win the other day, but today we did,” Zidane said, looking for positives.

“We have to lift our heads and think about the next game. We are going to believe and we are going to fight.”

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