Carlo Ancelotti ordered his Real Madrid players to “wake up” before his team came from two goals down to beat Villarreal 3-2 in the Copa del Rey.
Madrid were beaten 3-1 by rivals Barcelona in Sunday’s Supercopa de Espana final and they looked to be on their way out of the Copa del Rey on Thursday when they went into half-time 2-0 down.
Etienne Capoue and Samuel Chukwueze gave Villarreal in control, yet Vinicius Junior halved the deficit and Madrid were level when Eder Militao prodded home after Filip Jorgensen could only parry Karim Benzema’s header into the centre-back’s path.
Having started just three LaLiga games this season, Dani Ceballos seized upon his opportunity to complete a stunning turnaround to send Madrid into the quarter-finals.
After such a poor first-half display, Ancelotti revealed his furious reaction to his players at half-time provoked the much-improved second-half performance.
“I was really angry at half-time,” Ancelotti told reporters. ” I decided to take a risk and press high up.
“We weren’t being forceful enough in our duels and I told them to wake up, there was still time to come back. They definitely woke up. It wasn’t a good first half and we can’t be playing like that.
“In the second period, it was an incredible reaction, as it always is. This club never gives up but we can’t wait until near the end of the game to react.
“The team showed great personality to turn things around. The second half is fantastic for our confidence. We didn’t give up.”
Ceballos was Madrid’s unlikely hero as he popped up to fire in from Marco Asensio’s perfectly weighted pass.
Ancelotti felt that combination was one of the keys to victory, saying: “Ceballos and Asensio have changed the dynamics of the match because they put in more quality and energy, they were decisive in turning the result around.”
An incident in the second half saw Vinicius clash with Pepe Reina, Villarreal’s substitute goalkeeper, while Ancelotti was also involved in a confrontation with Los Blancos winger Rodrygo.
Rodrygo appeared to dismiss Ancelotti’s offer of a handshake after the Brazil international made way for Asensio in the 56th minute, but the Madrid head coach had no concerns over the episode.
“He [Rodrygo] had a slight muscle strain and I decided not to risk him,” Ancelotti explained. “He didn’t acknowledge me because I think he forgot, I don’t think it’s a big deal.
“[The Reina and Vinicius altercation] was nothing. He was a bit wound up with Vinicius, that’s all. I have a good relationship with him. What I saw, was that Vinicius got kicked a lot, like he does every game.”