Zinedine Zidane is adamant Real Madrid will “fight until the end” of their LaLiga title defence as they kept the deficit to city rivals Atletico to five points with a 1-1 draw at the Wanda Metropolitano.
The Real head coach acknowledged his side were below par in the first half, with Luis Suarez’s deft finish with the outside of his right boot inside the first quarter of an hour looking like it might be the decisive moment.
But Real were an improved outfit in the second half and, although they left it late, Karim Benzema’s 88th-minute equaliser ensured the visitors did not slip eight points behind the league leaders.
“Atletico were the better team in the first half and we were the better team in the second, I think we deserved it,” Zidane told a press conference. “We had chances and got back into it.
“At the end of the day the important thing for us was to put in another good second-half display and change the game, and we did that. It’s a point, we’re alive and we’re going to keep fighting.
“Our aim is to keep fighting. There’s still a long way to go in LaLiga and a lot of points at stake, we’re going to fight until the end. Things can change quickly. We’re doing the right things.
“We know we can improve and that’s what we’re going to do. We wanted to play better in the second half because the first half wasn’t good. The attitude was very important to change things.”
Real had strong claims for a penalty shortly before half-time when Felipe appeared to handle in the area after a corner but nothing was given after referee Alejandro Hernandez watched several replays of the incident.
“I’m not going to get involved because we know it’s a difficult job,” Zidane added. “The referee looked at it and made the decision. We have to respect that. It’s tough because we can’t get into that.
“We know the criteria, but it’s ultimately down to the referee, we can’t change it. The players have told me it was handball, but he watched it back on the VAR system and decided not to give it.”
Atletico’s lead over second-placed Barcelona is just three points after they were pegged back in the Madrid derby, where England full-back Kieran Trippier returned to the home side’s ranks after a 10-week betting ban.
“I don’t want to make extreme conclusions, I’m left with many positive things right now,” Atletico boss Diego Simeone told a press conference. “It’s not going to be easy and we never thought it would be.”