Rudi Garcia believes a draw would’ve been the fair result when Napoli lost 3-2 to Real Madrid, but explains what went wrong on the Jude Bellingham goal. ‘Do not always press high.’
The Partenopei had taken the lead at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona with Leo Ostigard, but Vinicius Junior and Bellingham skill turned it around before half-time.
Piotr Zielinski converted a frankly controversial penalty for 2-2, but there was bad luck on the decisive goal, as the Federico Valverde rocket from distance bounced off the crossbar, hit Alex Meret and ricocheted into the net.
“I don’t think it is a fair result. A draw felt more right, but football is like that sometimes,” Garcia told Sky Sport Italia.
“We played on even terms with this great team, but the problem is not conceding the first goal like that, because playing out from the back is our style and we know that there are risks with that. The players know that they can make mistakes.
“The problem I have is that after the equaliser for 1-1 we opened up too much. When you are in a difficult moment, you have to stay solid, not press high and create the spaces that Vinicius and Bellingham are just waiting for.”
On the Bellingham goal, were Napoli defenders waiting for the midfielders to challenge him before he even got into the penalty area?
“That goal came during a moment when in my view we did not protect the defence. We should’ve had the midfielders and wingers close in, pushing them down the flanks. It is much better to let Real Madrid have the ball with Dani Carvajal or Eduard Camavinga rather than Bellingham or Valverde behind our midfielders.
“It was I think more down to the team attitude that was wrong. When it is 1-1, we should be able to unite, stay solid and not always rush to make the high press. I think the team and the leaders on the field ought to learn how to read the various moments of the match.”
Garcia was impressed with the response from his players after the break, which culminated in that Zielinski penalty equaliser.
“What I did like was the approach after half-time, when Napoli were aggressive, passed, moved and could’ve won the game after equalising. I will not talk about the referee, because we received a penalty, but there was also a foul on Olivera by Rudiger before the 2-3 goal. I don’t know if that evens things out or if it was handball, but anyway…
“The attitude of my team was good and those who came off the bench also brought freshness and intensity. I am disappointed with the result, but pleased with the performance.”
Politano was causing makeshift left-back Camavinga a lot of problems, but he was substituted by Eljif Elmas on 70 minutes.
“He seemed tired and in fact he stayed on a lot longer than I thought he would. Camavinga had a yellow card, so I introduced Elmas to put pressure on him, even if we didn’t do it very much,” explained Garcia.
“We have quality and fresh legs on the bench, so it was natural to look towards them. It was our fourth game in nine days, so especially in midfield many of them were tired.”