Blame yourselves, Gary Lim tells Real Madrid
Disorganised, disinterested Madrid can blame only themselves
QUARTER-FINAL, 1ST LEG
(Ricardo Rodriguez 18-pen, Maximilian Arnold 25)
REAL MADRID 0
Complacency, the dreaded word in sports, is the worst enemy for any athlete and team.
Not even the best can escape its clutches when it decides to strike.
Not even Real Madrid.
The Galacticos thought the quarter-final, first-leg clash yesterday morning (Singapore time) was nothing more than a routine space mission.
They ended up veering off orbit and crashed back to earth with the reality that they had been thoroughly humiliated.
The 2-0 defeat at the Volkswagen Arena left Zinedine Zidane's men standing on the trap door leading to Champions League elimination.
The solemn faces were in stark contrast to the euphoric scenes witnessed last Saturday at the Nou Camp, where they had pulled off a brilliant 2-1 win over Barcelona.
Wolfsburg were supposed to be swatted aside in the first leg, then devoured whole in the return fixture for Real to qualify for the semi-finals.
They thought they had it won before the first ball was even kicked.
"If we're lucky, maybe Real will take us lightly," Wolfsburg goalkeeper Diego Benaglio, whose team have won just three out of 11 Bundesliga matches this year, said before the game.
True enough, Real took their foot off the pedal after a promising first 15 minutes.
In former Real midfielder Steve McManaman's words, they "downed tools".
The 10-time champions had no answers to Wolfsburg's speedy counter-attacks that centred around Andre Schuerrle's industrious play, Maximilian Arnold's intelligent reading and Julian Draxler and Bruno Henrique's direct runs.
The Real defenders got sloppy, the midfielders looked disinterested and, without much service to speak of, the much-vaunted front trio failed to lead by example.
If Real believe that their BBC trident (Benzema, Bale and Cristiano) is the answer to Barcelona's MSN (Messi, Suarez and Neymar), then this awful display is evidence that they are nowhere close.
Gareth Bale was probably the only Real player to emerge with any real credit, providing several dangerous crosses and responsible for most of the threat his side offered.
Cristiano Ronaldo was way off his usual game, incapable of getting his bearings right and failing to score Real's best chance of the game.
At least Karim Benzema had his misery cut short in the 41st minute, when he was substituted because of an injury.
Holding midfielder Casemiro, the hero against Barcelona, gave away the soft penalty from which Ricardo Rodriguez converted for the hosts' 18th-minute opening goal.
Centre backs Sergio Ramos and Pepe and fullbacks Danilo and Marcelo were so atrocious that the Wolfsburg quartet of Bruno, Arnold, Draxler and Schuerrle embarrassed them over and over again.
Real couldn't touch Wolfsburg when they retreated into their 4-5-1 defensive shell, and neither could they defend against the 4-2-3-1 system they seamlessly transformed into during their attacking sorties.
It was a sure recipe for disaster.
Wolfsburg's second goal in the 25th minute summed up Real's display.
Just before Draxler made the pass to set Bruno free on the right of the penalty box, Marcelo peered to his left and should have seen the free man, but decided to do nothing about it.
When the pass inevitably came, Marcelo jogged over with his hands behind his back, then turned away as Bruno crossed for Arnold to finish from close range.
Zidane, who stormed off into the players' tunnel at the final whistle, insisted that his team had not underestimated their opponents.
He had every reason to, after witnessing a performance so devoid of fight and character.
"It could be (because of) Saturday's game, physically we have suffered, above all in the first half," he said, pointing to the possibility of his players still being tired from their El Clasico exertions.
If that's really the case, then Zidane's game management can't escape criticism.
For it is the coach's job to be able to detect fatigue in his camp, and to devise a game plan that demands less from his players if that's the case.
The damage is already done.
And it might just get worse next week, unless they get their act together.
I was laughed at when I said we may have a chance. Real had their opportunities early on and we were a bit lucky. We pulled together, found the spaces and played very well. Now we will go to Madrid, knowing that we have a chance to advance.
- Wolfsburg boss Dieter Hecking
Zidane slams 'flat' display
(Above) Zinedine Zidane admitted Real Madrid suffered an El Clasico hangover, as they crashed to a 2-0 Champions League quarter-final, first-leg defeat by Wolfsburg yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Just five days after ending Barcelona's 39-game unbeaten run with a 2-1 away win, Real were humbled as Wolfsburg ignored their struggling mid-table form in Germany's top flight.
Real never recovered, as first-half goals from Swiss defender Ricardo Rodriguez and Maximilian Arnold put the hosts 2-0 up at the Volkswagen Arena with 25 minutes gone.
Wolfsburg now have the upper hand ahead of Tuesday's return leg at the Bernabeu.
"I'm not happy, above all with the first half. This can happen if you don't play with intensity from the start," said coach Zidane (above), who made just one change from the team which beat Barca.
"We wanted to play here just like we did on Saturday, it was an intensive game for us (in Barcelona) and we were flat in the first half here.
"Now we have a chance in the return leg and it's good we've got a game in three days (at home to Eibar) to get over this defeat.
"We had our problems, not just in the intensity, but also in our movement.
"We didn't expect the 2-0 defeat and we need to analyse where we went wrong and make corrections."
Zidane even said he was proud of his players and took full responsibility for the result.
"I have to find the reasons for the defeat and the solutions," he added.
Real's six-game winning streak was ended, as Wolfsburg picked up their first win in four games since beating Gent in the last 16 of the tournament.
It was a poor performance from Real's star forwards, as Gareth Bale was kept quiet and Cristiano Ronaldo rarely shook off his markers.
France forward Karim Benzema went off on 41 minutes after a knock.
Bale insists the tie is not over despite the two-goal deficit.
"Obviously, we expected to win the game, but things like this can happen in football," said the Welshman.
"We know it wasn't a great performance tonight, but we know it's only halfway through and we've got time to put it right."
Meanwhile, Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking told Real defender Marcelo to drop the play-acting antics after he earned Arnold a yellow card during yesterday morning's match.
The pair had a heated exchange in the tunnel after the game, and Hecking later revealed what he had said to the Brazilian.
"I told him to drop the acting," said Hecking. "He couldn't have complained if he'd been sent off for what he did.
"It annoyed me because it's something he doesn't need to do."
Marcelo fell to the ground dramatically after a clash with Arnold near to Hecking's dugout in the VW-Arena, and Arnold was shown the yellow card by Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi for his part in what became an argument between most of the players on the field.
The Germany international was more relaxed about it afterwards, and joked about what he had said to Marcelo as he writhed around in agony.
"We just spoke about our haircuts," he said with a smile.
"I would love to have as much hair as Marcelo." - Wire Services.