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Real Madrid coach Benitez can't shake the tag of defensive coach

Reuters , Monday 5 Oct 2015
Real Madrid
Real Madrid's head coach Rafa Benitez follows the action from the side line during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. The match ended in a 1-1 draw (AP)
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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.

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 added.

"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 ability."

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.

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