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How Zidane has triumphed in just 11 months
Editorial

How Zidane has triumphed in just 11 months

After a year and a half at the head of Real Madrid Castilla, and a year alongside Carlo Ancelotti, Florentino Perez decided to take a risk on Zinedine Zidane and it is an appointment that is paying dividends.

Winning two of a possible three titles thus far, Zidane only fell one point short in LaLiga last season, putting up an impressive comeback to take it to the final week of fixtures.

With 33 straight league matches without a loss, the Frenchman is unfazed at the pressure at a club as big as Los Blancos, already haveing dealt with that as a player.

He's achieved a lot, with his entire squad acting as his biggest ally:

11 months, 11 accomplishments

1. Regain the squad's trust in the coach

2. A happier Bernabeu after dominant wins over Deportivo, Sporting and Espanyol

3. Champions League debut victory over Roma

4. No dropped points in month of March

5. Comeback victory at the Camp Nou

6. Champions League comeback against Wolfsburg

7. Winning the Undecima

8. UEFA Super Cup win

9. Assault on the Estadio Vicente Calderon

10. Last-minute draw at the Camp Nou

11. Top of the league, 33-game unbeaten run, with lots of injuries

In fact, in his first month in charge, his side scored 17 goals and conceded just twice, a sign of what was to come.

The comeback against Wolfsburg reaffirmed his belief in the squad and in his own abilities, beginning to show that not only was it a good start, but that he was on to something.

The Champions League was always the goal set for the half season, and now LaLiga is the main priority.

Paul Pogba wasn't needed in the summer, and the UEFA Super Cup win was proof that the squad was good enough as is.

Last on the list to complete a perfect year is the FIFA Club World Cup, and the French boss hopes his squad has recovered enough by then to lift yet another title under his stewardship.

James Rodriguez trains immediately after personal Clasico frustration

Seeing how Mariano Diaz and Marco Asensio have surpassed him in the pecking order James Rodriguez responded to his Clasico disappointment in the only way he knew how: by hitting the gym immediately after Saturday's match upon returning to Madrid.

Zinedine Zidane once again decided not to start the player, and the attacking midfielder didn't feature amongst the substitutes either.

When dropped off at the Valdebebas training facility late Saturday night, most other players met up with their wives, families, and friends to relax, but not the Colombian, who still has a point to prove.

In an act of rebellion, Rodriguez trained into the night, showing his competitive streak and willingness to never give up, despite a tough, almost unchangeable situation.

Tax body claim Cristiano Ronaldo has fulfilled tax obligations

Notwithstanding what has recently been published, the Spanish tax government agency considers Cristiano Ronaldo up to date with his fiscal obligations.

The EIC [European Investigative Collaborations] published information asserting high profile players such as Ronaldo or Mesut Ozil would have used societies based in tax havens in order to avoid paying vast sums in Spain.

In response, Gestifute, Jorge Mendes' management company, released on Saturday a certificate originally issued by the Spanish entity that clears the Portuguese from tax fraud accusations.

"The State Agency of Tax Administration certifies that the aforementioned solicitor [Ronaldo] is up to date with his fiscal obligations according to article 74.1 of the General Regulations approved on July 27, 2007," says the document.

The statement remarks its 12-month validity from November 30, 2016, the date when it was issued, barring changes in specific regulations.

"This certificate has been issued with the exclusive purpose listed above, not generating any rights or expectation of rights for the solicitor nor for a third party."

Ronaldo posed a continuous threat at the Camp Nou

Despite failing to score this time around in El Clasico, Cristiano Ronaldo instilled fear in the Barcelona fans- and defence- that packed the Camp Nou.

With the exception of Sergio Ramos' late equaliser, the Portuguese star was directly responsible for Real Madrid's best scoring chances, his play not seemingly hindered by the tax evasion allegations published by El Mundo.

The early minutes did not go too smoothly for the striker, as he was booed every time he touched the ball and Los Blancos were too far from Marc-Andre Ter Stegen's box.

The Madeira native was never completely disconnected from the match, however, as he was spotted attempting to disrupt an opposing play anchored by Lionel Messi.

Ronaldo became more involved as the minutes went by, almost capitalising on one occasion when Ter Stegen came out at the wrong time, only for his follow-up volley attempt to be unconsciously rejected by teammate Karim Benzema.

His presence was especially notorious in the last 10 minutes before half-time, when he wreaked havoc among the Blaugrana defenders.

Firstly, Madrid's No. 7 culminated a sensational run on the left wing with a powerful left-footed shot barely cleared by the German keeper.

Later on, the 31-year-old dribbled past Gerard Pique, nutmegged Javier Mascherano but was unable to place his shot after a combination with Lucas Vazquez.

On the brink of half-time, Ronaldo was perfectly positioned to score off a Benzema cross, but the Argentinian centre-back made a last-second clearance.

The Euro 2016 champion was visibly upset when referee Carlos Clos Gomez blew the half-time whistle, aware he had squandered good opportunities to give his squad the lead.

After the break, the ex-Manchester United man kept persevering in his quest to finding the net, but he sent a volley straight into the stands.

Amidst Barcelona's domination period, Ronaldo contributed on the defensive end as well, making several fine tackles.

Towards the end of the contest, Jordi Alba prevented a sure-fire header by the star forward from entering the Catalans' goal when Ter Stegen was all but beaten.

Ramos ended up becoming the hero, but Ronaldo lived up to his lofty expectations

No Bale no problem

Gareth Bale's injury appeared to come at the worst possible time for Real Madrid, with the first Clasico of the season approaching just as it was confirmed that he would be spending a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Yet his replacement Lucas Vazquez turned in an encouraging showing at the Camp Nou, one which will have eased some of the initial panic surrounding the Welshman's absence.

With the ankle tendon injury expected to keep Bale out until February, Vazquez is likely to enjoy plenty of playing time in the improvised 'VBC' front three, so it will have pleased Zinedine Zidane to see him play well on the big stage - just as he did in the semi-final and final of last season's Champions League adventure.

Right from the first minute the 25-year-old was a thorn in the side of the Barcelona defence, with Javier Mascherano forced to scythe him down with a challenge that would have resulted in the awarding of a penalty in most other fixtures.

Undeterred by his initial lack of luck, the forward buzzed up and down the right flank, making Jordi Alba's life difficult when he attacked and frustrating Neymar when he dropped back to aid right-back Dani Carvajal in defence.

It was almost as if Bale himself was on the pitch, with the only noticeable difference being a shorter haircut.

It's true that he struggled to maintain his initial energetic start as the match ticked on, but Vazquez won't be the only Madrid player accused of suffering a lull at the beginning of the second half.

Overall, though, the Galician proved to be a major threat in the final third for Los Blancos, crafting four chances in the match - according to Opta - which was far more than the 1.45 chances per LaLiga game that Bale had been averaging.

Of course, there is no doubting that the Real Madrid No.11 is a more talented and more effective player, one who might not have lost Luis Suarez while marking him at the Barcelona goal and one who is far more likely than Vazquez to find the back of the net himself - Vazquez, curiously, has netted just five first team goals in his Real Madrid career, averaging out at one every 514 minutes.

However, the Spaniard proved on Saturday afternoon that he has what it takes to be a reliable understudy.

There may be less attacking quality with Bale on the sidelines for the next few months - during which Los Blancos face tough trips to Valencia, Sevilla and Celta Vigo - but Vazquez's encouraging Clasico performance was a reminder that the drop off might not be quite as substantial as some have feared.

Everton hold United thanks to late Baines penalty

A late penalty by Leighton Baines preserved Everton's unbeaten home record in the Premier League this season after Manchester United had taken the lead at Goodison Park on Sunday.

Former Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini conceded the spot kick in the 89th minute, soon after coming on as a substitute.

Earlier, Zlatan Ibrahimovic put United in front just before the interval with a clever lob that went in off the bar and post after his former Ajax Amsterdam team mate, goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, unwisely rushed out of the penalty area.

United, without the suspended Wayne Rooney, hit the frame of the goal with a drive by Ander Herrera but David de Gea had to make a series of saves as the home side improved.

The visitors are now sixth in the table, a point ahead of Everton, but it was another example of United squandering points.

They have drawn their last three league games and six out of eight, leaving them nine points behind the top four places.

"We are not getting what we deserve," manager Jose Mourinho told Sky Sports. "In every one of our draws we ... deserved to win.

"I'm happy my team is playing extremely well. But this season what matters is the results."

Mourinho, conscious perhaps of attracting further disciplinary sanctions, refused to comment on the penalty award.

Ibrahimovic's goal was the first shot on target in an uneventful first half.

The only other notable incident before the interval was the two-footed tackle by United's Marcos Rojo on Idrissa Gueye. He received a yellow card and Ibrahimovic escaped one later when he caught Seamus Coleman on the head with his boot.

Everton, with one win from nine games, dropped captain Phil Jagielka and took a long time to get going.

When they did, De Gea denied Kevin Mirallas, Gueye and Enner Valencia, one of Ronald Koeman's three substitutes.

He also sent on Gerard Deulofeu and Mason Holgate, leaving Ross Barkley on the bench, but the crucial change was the introduction of Fellaini a few minutes from the end.

The Belgian's first intervention was a clumsy challenge on Gueye that caused the penalty.

"The team performance was positive and we showed great organisation," manager Koeman said. "We made it difficult for United to create anything.

"One point was the minimum we deserved. It was a fair result. We're still unbeaten at home so we are very happy."

Feisty Derby della Capitale falls in Roma's favour

The Serie A title race is continuing to be run at great pace as Roma clawed back to within four points of leaders Juventus thanks to a 2-0 win over local rivals Lazio.

Tempers flared, as expected, at the Stadio Olimpico with referee Luca Banti struggling to keep on top of the 22 players on the pitch, who were ably supported by two very willing benches who piled into the action on a number of occasions.

A penalty shout in the first-half had both sets of players at the official's throat, as Bruno Peres went over Lucas Biglia's errant leg with little contact appearing to have occurred. Pointing to the spot, Banti then gave just a free-kick, ending up pleasing nobody.

The first 45 minutes featured few clear cut chances, Ciro Immobile guilty of wasting the hosts' best openings and Roma certainly came out the brighter in the second period, Edin Dzeko rising to have a duo of headers denied by Federico Marchetti.

Past the hour mark, it was clear that either a mistake or a piece of individual brilliance would turn the game, and as such Aquile defender Wallace foolishly dawdled on the ball outside his own area, Kevin Strootman stealing the ball and dinking home.

However, on his way back from celebrations in front of the jubilant away following, the Dutchman squirted water at Danilo Cataldi, a substitute warming up on the touchline. The Lazio man responded by grabbing at the back of Strootman's neck and found himself red carded, the Roma midfielder splayed out on the deck.

Radja Nainggolan sealed the win after 77 minutes to end the contest, spotting Marchetti out of position and driving the ball in at the near post from all of 30 yards to send the Giallorossi second in Serie A.

Meanwhile, AC Milan's late win over Crotone keeps them level with Roma, ahead of their meeting in the capital on December 12.

 
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