Ancelotti: Real Madrid ‘must improve’ after Leipzig scare

Carlo Ancelotti admitted Real Madrid underperformed in their 1-1 Champions League round-of-16 draw with RB Leipzig on Wednesday, calling it a “bad game” and saying the team “must improve” after progressing 2-1 on aggregate.

Vinícius Júnior put Madrid ahead in the 65th minute at the Santiago Bernabeu, converting Jude Bellingham‘s pass, but Willi Orbán equalised for Leipzig three minutes later to make for a nervous end to the game, with Leipzig’s Dani Olmo hitting the bar in added time.

Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

“It was a bad game, with low intensity,” Ancelotti told Movistar. “The psychological aspect conditioned our game. We played against an opponent with quality, who played with nothing to lose, and we had the brakes on from the start until the end. We suffered, but the important thing was to get to the quarterfinals, and we’re there.”

Madrid failed to register a shot on target in the first half, with Ancelotti making a half-time change, bringing on forward Rodrygo for midfielder Eduardo Camavinga.

“The idea was to press more, with energetic midfielders, but we played with the brakes on,” Ancelotti said. “No pressing, slow with the ball, not direct, with sideways passes.

“It wasn’t a good night obviously. It’s my fault. Sometimes in the Champions League this can happen. It happened to us against Chelsea at home [in April 2022]. But sometimes a bad game can see you eliminated.”

Despite the disappointing performance, Madrid are now in the Champions League quarterfinals — alongside Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City so far — and are top of LaLiga.

“We have a seven-point lead in the league and we’re in the quarterfinals. If we’d been offered that at the start of the season, we’d have taken it,” Ancelotti said in his postmatch news conference.

“I might have been wrong with the starting 11. We must be self-critical and improve. … The criticism today is totally deserved. The whistles [from the crowd] at half-time were deserved.”

“We suffered a lot. They played well and we played bad, simple,” Madrid defender Antonio Rüdiger said. “We were just sloppy, slow, zero intensity. In the Champions League you can get punished for this … We didn’t find the right answer today.

“You have to be switched on for 90 minutes plus. It wasn’t a good performance, but at the end of the day we are through.”