Madrid - Rafa Benitez portrayed himself as a coach who
favours the kind of spectacular attacking football Real Madrid fans demand when
he took over from Carlo Ancelotti at the end of last season but can't seem to
shake the defensive tag.
The 55-year-old gained a reputation for caution during
stints at clubs including Valencia, Liverpool, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Napoli
and Sunday's 1-1 La Liga draw at Atletico Madrid, when Real appeared to take
their foot off the gas in the second half, prompted complaints Benitez had
squandered a chance to kill off their city rivals.
His decision to replace in-form striker Karim Benzema, who
put Real ahead in the first half with his sixth goal in as many La Liga
appearances this term, with midfielder Mateo Kovacic came under particular
scrutiny in the Spanish media on Monday.
Also read: Ronaldo a 'guarantee' of goals, claims Benitez
After Benzema came off 13 minutes from time, Atletico
started to up the pressure and scored a deserved equaliser in the 83rd minute
when Luciano Vietto poked the ball home after good work down the left wing by
fellow substitute Jackson Martinez.
Martinez almost won the game for the home side late on but
Keylor Navas in the Real goal, who saved an Antoine Griezmann penalty in the
first half, managed to tip his shot away.
Benitez disagreed with a reporter who suggested at the
post-match news conference that Real had lacked ambition.
"No, you have to give credit to Atletico who were
intense," Benitez said.
"In the first half we were playing to win," he
"We took the lead and then we made mistakes, with the
penalty and the goal. We lacked precision on our counter attacks."
Benitez, who brought on fit-again attacking midfielder
Gareth Bale in place of playmaker Isco with around half an hour to go, said he
had taken Benzema off because he wanted fresh legs on the wing.
"With Bale's speed we could play between the lines and
with Cristiano (Ronaldo) up front we still had an attacking threat," he
said. "We brought balance to the team and maintained our scoring
The draw meant Real missed a chance to go top and they are
second on 15 points after seven games, level with champions Barcelona and Celta
Vigo and two points ahead of fifth-placed Atletico.
Villarreal are the surprise leaders on 16 points despite a
1-0 reverse at Levante on Sunday.For
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