MADRID: World and European kings Real Madrid are into the Champions League quarter-finals for the fifth consecutive year but coach Carlo Ancelotti was forced to say ‘sorry’ to fans after the embarrassing 4-3 home defeat to Schalke.
Madrid were jeered out of the Estadio Bernabeu despite reaching the last eight with a 5-4 agregate win.
Along the way Cristiano Ronaldo became the all-time leading marksman in European competition with the two goals which took his total to 78, surpassing the old record held by ex-Real icon Raul. Ronaldo also equalled the Leo Messi’s Champions League record of 75.
Ancelotti said: “I’m very sorry. We played very badly and that is bad for our image. We’re professionals, we don’t make ourselves look ridiculous.”
The 10-time European champions suffered a fifth defeat of 2015 and it could have been worse but for two late saves from the otherwise unimpressive Iker Casillas.
Ancelotti has faced growing criticism from sections of the club’s support this season, despite leading Real to the Club World Cup in December and presiding over a club record of 22 successive wins.
He added: “All the criticism we get is justified. We need to look at our defence, that’s where all our errors were. No team has put four past us at home. We had problems in every aspect of the game: offensive; defensive; desire; fight and concentration.
“It’s not easy to explain what’s happened. We’ve lost confidence. It is quite incomprehensible after what we did until December.”
Captain Iker Casillas, possibly at fault on two of the Schalke goals, conceded: “It is clear we have hit rock bottom in a spectacular way. But
the positive thing is that, a week on Friday, we will be in the draw and we can forget the past 10 days.
“The team has again failed to reach the level of recent months but what’s important is that we realise that. We have to understand the Madrid fans and today we weren’t up to the standards of Real Madrid and the Champions League last 16.
“We were made to sweat too much but what we have to do is be more united than ever.”
Schalke took the lead on the night on two occasions through first-half goals from Christian Fuchs and former Real striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
Cristiano Ronaldo twice pulled Ancelotti’s side level with headers before half-time, and Karim Benzema put the hosts in front early in the second half.
But further strikes from Leroy Sane and Huntelaar secured a deserved win for the visitors.
** Porto thrashed Basel 4-0 in the other tie to reach the quarter-finals 5-1 on aggregate.
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