Mourinho: Zaragoza defeat was my fault
Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho accepted the blame for his side's shock home defeat to lowly Real Zaragoza tonight, citing a lack of motivation among his players at the start as the cause for their downfall.
Three days after their UEFA Champions League dreams suffered a huge blow with their semi-final first leg defeat to Barcelona, Real saw their already slim hopes of winning the La Liga title all but evaporate after going down 3-2 to Zaragoza at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Mourinho made wholesale changes to the side that lost to Barça, but selected a similar team to the one that had beaten Athletic Bilbao 3-0 at San Mames and Valencia 6-3 at the Mestalla in recent weeks.
Mourinho admitted his side, which included the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Karim Benzema, Kaka, Sergio Ramos, Iker Casillas and Pepe, should have been good enough to win the match, and accepted responsibility for their failure to do so.
The Portuguese also praised Zaragoza for their battling display, which saw Javier Aguirre's men claim an important victory that provisionally lifts them four points clear of the relegation zone.
"Our opponents have fought a lot, for them the points were practically decisive for Primera Division survival. In football the difference in mental preparation is important, when one team goes out full of concentration and motivation and the other doesn't, the blame is the coach's, obviously," he said.
Zaragoza had the better of a low-key first half and led 1-0 at half-time thanks to Angel Lafita's goal just before the break, and the visitors then went 2-0 up in the 55th minute when Gabi scored from the penalty spot.
Real pulled a goal back through Sergio Ramos soon after but a rapid Zaragoza counter attack in the 77th minute saw Lafita make it 3-1. Benzema, who also hit the crossbar in the second half, made it 3-2 in the 84th minute but Real, who lost Ricardo Carvalho to a second yellow card late on, could not find an equaliser.
Mourinho added: "The team was basically the same that played in difficult games in Bilbao and Valencia, where we won easily and by playing well. But today the coach hasn't been able to sufficiently motivate his players. In the first half we didn't play well.
"The second half was completely different, the second half was good but we gifted three goals to our opponents. They beat us and congratulations to them." Mourinho also insisted his conscious was "clear" with regards the team he picked, even though he concedes Zaragoza's relegation rivals will not be happy that Real lost.
Mourinho, who criticised Sporting Gijon earlier this season for playing a supposedly weakened team against Real's title rivals Barcelona, said: "I would understand [the other coaches] even though this team won in Valencia and Bilbao, two very difficult stadiums. The team had more than enough quality to win.
"I have a clear conscience and I've not wanted to gift anything to Zaragoza nor to the rest of the teams that are fighting for survival. When we were losing I sent on first-choice players who were tired, Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria and Marcelo.
"I don't feel that we've gifted anything to Zaragoza but I accept that coaches of other teams could be very disappointed [with this result]. Madrid have tried everything possible to win and you also have to give credit to your opponents."
Mourinho was also asked about his decision to leave top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo out of his squad for tonight's match, which has been viewed by some as a reaction to the critical comments the £80million man made about Real's defensive approach to Wednesday's Champions League game with Barça.
Mourinho said: "It was my decision because I had Higuain and Benzema to play. They were both motivated and eager to play 90 minutes. Also, Higuain needs playing time to recover his top form. I also had [Emmanuel] Adebayor and Di Maria on the bench, I had options."