x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Mishaps mean more misery in Madrid

Supporters of Real and Atletico Madrid have scant sympathy for their respective plights, but it has been a dreadful week for both clubs in the Spanish capital.

The Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini vents his frustration on Saturday.
The Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini vents his frustration on Saturday.

Supporters of Real and Atletico Madrid have scant sympathy for their respective plights, but it has been a dreadful week for both clubs in the Spanish capital. Struggling Atletico's 4-0 Champions League defeat at Chelsea led them to dismiss their coach, Abel Resino, on Friday. The former Atletico goalkeeper Resino only took charge in February and finished last season strongly enough to qualify for the Champions League play-offs.

Former Valencia and Benfica coach Quinque Sanchez Flores, 44, was swiftly appointed until the end of the season. With Resino's assistant Santi Denia in charge on Saturday, Flores watched another farcical Atletico display as they drew against fifth-placed Mallorca. Diego Forlan missed a 27th-minute penalty when the referee ruled defender Josemi had handled the ball in the area and showed him a second yellow card.

Forlan was given a second chance five minutes into the second half when Ivan Ramis handled in the area and was also shown a second yellow. Forlan converted and Atletico appeared to be heading for victory, only for teenage goalkeeper David De Gea to allow Borja Valero's tame shot to deflect in off his legs in the final minute. "What is happening to us is not normal," said Denia. New coach Flores has a reputation for conservative tactics and, while they not resonate in the minds of the 45,000 Atletico regulars who appreciate the attacking verve shown by their strike force.

Their perceptions, however, jar with the reality that Flores is taking over a side with the worst defensive record in the Primera Liga, having conceded 18 goals in eight games. Scores of unhappy Atletico fans protested at their training ground yesterday. The team have won just one of their eight league games so far and are bottom of their Champions League group without a win. Much better is expected of Real, yet they lost at home to AC Milan in midweek and were held to a goalless draw by Sporting Gijon on Saturday.

The point ensured that Madrid moved ahead of Barcelona to head the table overnight, but they're unlikely to experience a more hollow achievement all season. A depleted Madrid side found it tough in the rain-lashed Molinon stadium and struggled to break down a spirited Sporting side backed by a raucous 24,000 crowd. Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas had to be alert to deny Miguel de las Cuevas just before half-time and Raul saw a goal disallowed after Kaka handled the ball. .

Coach Manuel Pellegrini praised the home side, saying: "Sporting had a lot of intensity, a strong attacking line and technical ability." Sporting director Jorge Valdano added: "We're not happy about the result, but were satisfied with our attitude." In Saturday's third Primera Liga match, 10-man Espanyol held third-placed Sevilla away. Espanyol's Jose Callejon nearly scored a last-minute winner, but on a night for draws in Spain, his shot flew wide of the Sevilla goal.

@Email:amitten@thenational.ae