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Zinedine Zidane Explains Half-Time Double Change in Madrid Derby Win

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistFebruary 1, 2020

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 1: coach Zinedine Zidane of Real Madrid during the La Liga Santander  match between Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on February 1, 2020 in Madrid Spain (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Zinedine Zidane absolved his players of blame for a muted first-half performance that forced him into making a double change in Real Madrid's 1-0 win against Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

The Los Blancos manager took off Toni Kroos and Isco for Lucas Vazquez and Vinicius Junior at the break after Atleti outplayed his side:

Tom Allnutt @TomAllnuttAFP

HT 0-0. 255 mins these teams have now played without a goal. Madrid not great. Atletico significantly better but they can't score.

The switch worked. Vinicius played a key role in Karim Benzema's 56th-minute goal, which secured Real a rare home victory against their city rivals in the league:

Semra Hunter @SemraHunter

FT: 1-0 BIG win for Real Madrid in terms of title race as they go 6pts clear of Barça (in action Sun.) The French connection Mendy - Benzema snapped up only goal of the match. Fede Valverde outstanding again. 1st loss for Atleti at SB since 2012 in #LaLiga #RealMadridAtleti

Zidane told reporters after the win that the changes were necessary because he set up the team wrong: "I had to change things. I wasn't happy with what I was seeing, but it wasn't the players' fault; it was mine. I didn't want to point a finger at anyone, even less so at Isco and Toni, who are very good players. I'm happy for the win, for all of the players, and everyone is happy with the result."

Having started with five midfielders, Real switched to a 4-3-3 formation in the second half.

Benzema turned home from six yards after Vinicius fed Ferland Mendy in space in the left channel and the left-back squared across the box.

It was the Frenchman's 13th league goal of the season. Only Lionel Messi has netted more with 14.

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Real have won four on the bounce in La Liga and have not lost a game in the Spanish top flight since October's 1-0 reverse at Mallorca in an unbeaten run of 13 games.

They are the clear front-runners for the La Liga title given Barca have been showing variable form under new manager Quique Setien. Real moved six points clear at the top ahead of Barcelona's clash against Levante on Sunday.

Even though the squad is largely the same, Real look a different prospect from last season, when their title challenge never materialised and both Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari were sacked in the course of the campaign.

Much of the credit should be given to Zidane:

Andy West @andywest01

Reckon Zidane spent his year off immersing himself in tactics, strategy. His game management is so much more proactive now. Prime example: double sub of Vinicius and Lucas at half-time. Bold move but absolutely needed. I doubt the old Zidane would have done that.

His record as Real manager is staggering. In his first two-and-a-half-year spell in charge, he won nine trophies, including three successive UEFA Champions Leagues.

Since his return to the Santiago Bernabeu dugout last March, Zidane has added the Spanish Super Cup for his 10th, and it would be a surprise were more not forthcoming in the remainder of the season.     

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