Football

Real Madrid must overcome ‘weakness’ of poor first-half performances

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Carlo Ancelotti admitted that Real Madrid’s first-half performances have been « a weakness » lately after they needed second-half goals from Marco Asensio, Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema to beat Alaves 3-0 and bounce back from their midweek Champions League loss to Paris Saint Germain.

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Madrid struggled to get going at the Bernabeu on Saturday before Asensio opened the scoring with a long-range solo effort in the 63rd minute.

The forward then combined brilliantly with Karim Benzema to provide Vinicius with the second with 10 minutes left, before Benzema dispatched a penalty in added time. The result leaves Madrid seven points clear at the top of LaLiga, with second-placed Sevilla in action on Sunday.

« We’ve spoken about it this week, the fact that it’s hard for us to go into games with the necessary intensity, » Ancelotti said in his post-match news conference when asked about the first-half display. « It’s a weakness we’ve had, and let’s hope we fix it. »

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He added: « We had the commitment, but we lacked a bit of quality in the final third. I said that at half time, to add a bit more quality, and the players did it, above all the three forwards [Asensio, Vinicius and Benzema]. »

Asensio, 26, has now scored seven league goals this season, his best ever return, while Benzema and Vinicius have 18 and 13 respectively.

There were some whistles from the home crowd after a goalless first half — Madrid had scored just once in their previous four games, coinciding with Benzema’s absence through injury — before the whistles turned to cheers with a convincing second-half performance.

« The fans evaluate the game we’re playing, » Ancelotti said. « They didn’t like the game we played in the first half. We agreed with the fans, nobody in the dressing room was happy with the first half. We had to do more.

« They want the team to win the league. We had a bad game on Tuesday, they’ve seen a reaction and that’s good. »

Real Madrid will now play league games against Rayo Vallecano and Real Sociedad before hosting PSG in their round-of-16 second leg on March 9, looking to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit.

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