Real Madrid interim coach Santi Solari said the “joy and excitement” within his team had been key to their 4-0 victory in Wednesday’s Copa del Rey last-32 first-leg win at third-tier Melilla.
A much-changed Madrid XI with seven starters aged 23 or under was always in control amid driving rain in the North African enclave, and first-half goals from Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio had their side in full control of the tie.
Youngsters Alvaro Odriozola and Cristo Gonzalez added to the scoreline late on, for a result which can help start lifting the gloom that settled around the Bernabeu during Julen Lopetegui’s ill-fated 139 days in charge.
The former Madrid and Argentine midfielder told the post-game news conference that the decisive win in his first game in temporary charge was “the fruit” of his players’ positivity and commitment.
“The team played with joy and excitement and commitment and the result is the fruit of that,” said Solari, who has been promoted from his job as coach of Madrid’s Castilla youth side.
“It was not as easy as the result suggests, we worked hard and played with these characteristics. The pitch was very heavy too. I am coming from the Segunda B and I know there are very good teams there. That is why I am so happy with the result. We knew this would be a difficult game in difficult conditions.”
The €45 million Brazilian 18-year-old Vinicius Junior impressed with his touch and assurance on his first senior start, assisting both Asensio and Odriozola’s goals.
“[Vinicius] is a very young kid, has just arrived to a new country, new friends, new culture, new football, a new world which is Real Madrid,” Solari said. “Bit by bit he will keep improving and maturing. We all see his talent, but more is needed in football. I am happy with him, and with all of them.”
Benzema and captain Sergio Ramos were the only survivors from the XI in Lopetegui’s final game in charge — last weekend’s 5-1 Clasico defeat at Barcelona, with more senior players likely to return for Saturday’s La Liga game at home to Real Valladolid.
“Ramos is the captain of this team and this ship and wanted to be here to mark the path,” Solari said. “This is a team of great champions, who know what they have to do to get out of this situation. Commitment comes with playing for this shirt, and for themselves. We are all united in this group.”