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Diminished Madrid were ‘exceptional’

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Real Madrid's forward Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after missing a goal opportunity during the UEFA Champions League football match against PSG on October 21, 2015 in Paris. PHOTO/AFP

Real Madrid’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after missing a goal opportunity during the UEFA Champions League football match against PSG on October 21, 2015 in Paris. PHOTO/AFP

PARIS, October 22- Real Madrid coach Rafa Benitez described his injury-hit team’s performance in holding Paris Saint-Germain to a 0-0 draw at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday as “exceptional”.

“We deserved to win the match. Given the circumstances the performance of the team was not good, it was exceptional,” said Benitez after the Group A clash that failed to live up to expectations as a spectacle but edged both clubs a step closer to qualification for the last 16.

“I was convinced the team would play well and try to win the game. We had chances to win it, more than them, and decent control of the match against a team who are not easy to play against.

“As coach I am very satisfied with the performance of the players.”

Real were without Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and James Rodriguez for the trip to the French capital, along with Pepe, so their attacking potential was greatly reduced, although they could still call upon their all-time leading scorer in Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Portuguese superstar came as close as anyone to winning the game with a 72nd-minute volley that flew just wide, but the point keeps Real on course for qualification for the last 16 from Group A and makes them favourites to win the section.

They host PSG in the Spanish capital in a fortnight, with both clubs on seven points, four points clear of Malmo, who beat Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0 in Sweden in the night’s other game.

Critics who label Benitez an overly defensive coach will point out that Madrid failed to score for the first time in 41 Champions League group games since a 2-0 defeat to Juventus back in 2008, when Bernd Schuster was in charge.

It was also Madrid’s third goalless draw this season, but this was not a bad result for Real at a venue where Barcelona lost 3-2 in the group stage a year ago.

“I am not worried about possession. I am more interested in the performance of the team, and despite the injuries we saw a great Real Madrid,” Benitez added.

“We were aggressive and incisive. Everything we planned turned out well. There are always little details missing but I think overall it was exceptional.”

– Fair result –

PSG’s attack was spearheaded by their own all-time leading scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but he was kept quiet along with Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria, leaving home coach Laurent Blanc to focus instead on his team’s defensive display.

“I am not satisfied because we didn’t get the result we were looking for,” said Blanc, who was disappointed with the first half in particular.

“We corrected things in the second half. We opened up to Madrid hitting us on the break but I think that was a risk we had to take to try to win the game.

“One can be disappointed and think PSG would dominate but even against a Real side with lots of absentees its not easy.

“We competed with them. We didn’t dominate but the draw was fair and we were very good defensively so the biggest satisfaction comes from there,” added Blanc, whose team, like Real, remain unbeaten in all competitions this season.

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