Doubts have once again descended on Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid with whistles for goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and questions over why Gareth Bale was left in the stands for such an important Champions League game.
Courtois has now let in five goals from just eight shots in the group stage and his inability to keep out Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis’ shots brought whistles from the Santiago Bernabeu before half-time.
He did not emerge for the restart amid suggestions of a stomach bug. Zidane’s press conference post-match did little to clear up the mystery of why he was fit to start the game but not play the 90 minutes.
“Courtois is not well, he had some things . . . ,” he said trailing off before adding: “He couldn’t continue in the second half.”
Diario AS reported that he had had stomach problems all day and he vomited at half-time. His father had to drive him home because he was in no fit state to do so himself.
“I’m not worried about him. He wants to do well,” added Zidane.
Zidane was also not entirely convincing as to why Bale and James Rodriguez were left out.
They were tocados’ according to the coach — it’s a word that usually means not 100 per cent fit and implies carrying a slight knock.
But Sportsmail understands that Bale was physically fine and there was certainly no pre-agreed decision to rest him. Was the coach trying to cover up a decision to play a weakened side that clearly back-fired?
One columnist in Diario AS complained: “Zidane wanted them both (Bale and Rodriguez” out in the summer. Only the 7-3 pre-season loss to Atletico Madrid and so many injuries made him use them but now the injuries to other players have cleared up they were back in the stands watching. The manager needs to think again. We don’t have so much talent that we can afford to have them not playing, especially not with things as they are in the group.”
Lucas Vazquez played in Bale’s place and was second only to Courtois as a target of the ire of the Bernabeu.
This is the first time that Madrid have failed to win either of their two group games. It was also their third straight home defeat in the competition because they lost to CSKA Moscow and Ajax last season. — Online