Football: Zidane takes blame as Real Madrid suffer humiliating defeat

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MADRID (AFP) – Real Madrid crashed to a humiliating Copa del Rey exit on Wednesday when they were knocked out by little Leganes in the quarter-finals with under-fire coach Zinedine Zidane taking the blame.

European champions Real lost 2-1 in the second leg at their Bernabeu home as the tie finished 2-2 on aggregate with their modest city neighbours going through on away goals despite having lost the first leg 1-0 last week.

“I am responsible for all of this. It s a failure for me,” said Zidane who recently penned a contract extension until 2020.

Admitting that it had been his worst night as a coach, the Frenchman added: “It s a logical result, our opponents played their match and we did not.

“It is a big blow. We did what we had to do in the first leg. Nobody expected this, especially me but this is football.

“I am the manager. I picked the team and I was wrong in many regards. It s up to me to find the solutions. I will continue to fight, to work, to battle and to find the things the team needs.”

Javi Eraso gave Leganes a 32nd-minute lead with a spectacular curling shot from long range.

Karim Benzema levelled on the night after 47 minutes thanks to a pass from Lucas Vazquez but Brazilian striker Gabriel Pires then hit the winner with a firm header eight minutes later.

It was a depressing evening for Zinedine Zidane s side who, despite being in the Champions League last 16 where they face Paris Saint-Germain in three weeks time, are 19 points behind Barcelona in the Spanish title race.

The fans let their feelings known by booing off the team at half-time.

Leganes have a budget of just 45 million euros — 15 times less than the 675 million euros commanded by mighty Real.

Even without Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, who were rested Wednesday after starring in the 7-1 rout of Deportivo La Coruna at the weekend, Real should still have had enough firepower for a side languishing in 13th spot in La Liga.

Zidane started with Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio, who scored in the first leg but he got a warning of what was to come when Claudio Beauvue saw a free-kick come back off a post.

But Leganes put on an inspired display, despite having their backs to the wall late in the game, to make the semi-finals for the first time.

In the night s other game, Valencia made the semi-finals but needed a 3-2 penalty shoot-out to defeat Alaves who won 2-1 for a 3-3 aggregate.

On Tuesday, Sergio Escudero s goal after just 24 seconds set Sevilla on their way to a 3-1 win over Atletico Madrid and a place in the semi-finals. Sevilla, finalists in 2016, had won the first leg 2-1.

Meanwhile, Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho has been named in the Barcelona squad for Thursday s Copa del Rey clash against Espanyol, his first call-up since his 160 million euros ($194 million, 142 million pound) move from Liverpool.

Coutinho, who has been handed the number 14 shirt vacated by China-bound Javier Mascherano, had been sidelined by a thigh injury since his drawn-out transfer saga came to an end on January 6.

The 14 shirt was also worn by the club s Dutch legend Johan Cruyff who died in 2016.

Coutinho has been cleared to make his debut at Camp Nou as Barcelona look to overturn a 1-0 defeat to Espanyol in the first leg of their quarter-final clash.

Coutinho spent six months with Barcelona s city rivals on loan in 2012.

Club captain Andres Iniesta and striker Paco Alcacer were also included in the 19-man squad for Thursday s game as was Colombian defender Yerry Mina, another transfer window recruit.

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