• Football

Ancelotti plays down Ronaldo concerns

ESPN staff
August 20, 2014
Cristiano Ronaldo left the field at half-time during the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup, and did not return after the break © Getty Images

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has professed to be unworried over the unspecified injury which forced Cristiano Ronaldo off at half-time in Tuesday's 1-1 Spanish Super Cup draw with Atletico Madrid at the Bernabeu.

Ronaldo had seemed back to full fitness when scoring twice in last week's European Supercup win against Sevilla, with concerns he had not fully recovered from the tendinitis issue in his left knee that affected him through the end of the 2013-14 campaign.

The Portugal international, however, lasted just 45 minutes of the season opening showpiece game against Atletico, being surprisingly replaced at the break after another subdued showing.

The Italian coach told his post-match news conference that it was too early yet to know the extent of the injury, which is thought to be a left hamstring problem, but the early signs were not too bad.

"Cristiano had a strain and after the first half was not comfortable," Ancelotti said. "We will evaluate it tomorrow, and do the tests. At first it does not seem so serious."

Madrid seemed to be taking an advantage into Friday's second leg at the Estadio Vicente Calderon, when James Rodriguez bundled home from close range on 81 minutes. But Atletico showed the fighting spirit which brought them such success last season by bouncing back to equalise through Raul Garcia with just three minutes of normal time remaining.

Although his side created few chances until Atletico started to tire late on, Ancelotti said he was happy as his team had been in charge of proceedings throughout.

"In the first half we were pretty good," he said. "We were in control of the game throughout, the team played very well, above all in midfield where the three played well. Atletico have a small advantage as we need to score at the Calderon. We have the possibility of scoring goals there, and we are going to try that. If we can repeat today's game, we will win the Supercopa. In the second half the whole team played with more intensity, with more pace, looking for more space on the wings. James played well, he has scored his first goal for Real Madrid, it will give him more confidence."

That initial midfield three did not include Angel Di Maria, who received a huge ovation when he replaced Luka Modric on 77 minutes, and immediately added energy and thrust to his side.

Ancelotti laughed off a suggestion by Atletico coach Diego Simeone that the winger, who is reportedly close to leaving for Manchester United, was Madrid's outstanding individual player. But he did say the Argentina international remained part of his current plans.

"As I have said many times Di Maria is a Madrid player, and I will use him as I think of using him," he said. "Nothing else."

Asked whether much questioned club captain Iker Casillas was to blame for Atletico's late equaliser, in which a corner kick bounced in the centre of Madrid's six-yard box, Ancelotti said the guilt lay elsewhere.

"The mistake we made was not covering the front post," he said. "Iker did not have a chance to do anything in that situation as he had a player in front of him. I will not yet say who is my starting goalkeeper."

The experienced campaigner also refused to be drawn on claims by reporters that referee Javier Estrada Fernandez had been too lenient with Atletico's players, although he agreed that Madrid should have had a penalty after Mario Suarez appeared to handle the ball.

"It is clear we suffered from that [Mario handball], but it was not an easy game to referee," Ancelotti said. "It was normal, Atletico always play with that aggression and intensity. It was not news."

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