Real Madrid coach Rafa Benitez struggled to find explanations after watching his side humiliated 4-0 at home by arch rivals Barcelona in Saturday’s La Liga ‘Clasico’.
Taking charge of the biggest fixture in club soccer for the first time, Benitez suffered a baptism of fire that leaves him in a precarious position only three months into his debut season.
In an ominous sign for the former Valencia, Liverpool, Inter Milan, Chelsea and Napoli manager, angry fans at the Bernabeu roundly whistled their own players and chanted for president Florentino Perez to step down as champions Barca surged six points clear of second-placed Real after 12 matches.
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Barca were utterly dominant and already three goals to the good when Barca coach Luis Enrique brought on a fit-again Lionel Messi after an hour and the Argentina captain promptly sent Luis Suarez clear to score his second and Barca’s fourth.
Neymar and Andres Iniesta with a stunning strike into the top corner were also on target for the Spanish and European champions and they could easily have added to their tally in the closing stages.
A chastened Benitez, who took over from Carlo Ancelotti at the end of last season, said he was focusing on picking the players up for Tuesday’s Champions League Group A game at Shakhtar Donetsk, with Real already assured of a place in the knockout round.
“Of course it hurts, it hurts a lot to lose like this,” Benitez told a news conference.
“What we have to do now is stay united,” he added.
“It wasn’t a question of attitude. We were up against a very good side and we paid for our mistakes.”
Benitez said his idea was for his players to try to pressure Barca and keep the ball.
A turning point in the game was a chance that fell to Marcelo at the start of the second half which could have made it 2-1 and put Real firmly back in the game, he added.
The Brazil fullback skipped through on the left but his shot hit the side netting and Barca made it 3-0 moments later when Iniesta struck.
“Now’s not the time to assess individuals,” Benitez said.
“We have to reflect on what happened and stay united. We made mistakes and we paid for them against a very good team.”