MILAN • Zinedine Zidane praised his side’s performance as one of the best this season as Real Madrid closed in on the knockout phase of the Champions League with a 2-0 win against 10-man Inter Milan on Wednesday.
Eden Hazard put the visitors ahead with a penalty after just seven minutes for his first strike in Europe for Real.
An own goal by former Real defender Achraf Hakimi then doubled their lead as the Spanish champions brushed off the injury absences of captain Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema, while pushing the Italians to the brink of elimination from the competition.
“They told us that you don’t win in the Champions League without Sergio Ramos, and this evening, we did it,” said Zidane, whose side notched their first victory at the San Siro.
“I don’t know if this is our most complete match of the season or not, but we produced a great performance from start to finish, intense and serious.
“We knew that these were three super important points for us and that drew the best out of my team.”
His men had taken just one point from their first two games after a 3-2 loss to Shakhtar Donetsk and a 2-2 draw against Borussia Monchengladbach, but two successive Champions League victories have put them back in the driving seat.
Real, the record 13-time European champions, are now second in Group B with seven points, one point behind Monchengladbach, with Inter bottom on just two points and only two games remaining.
Coach Antonio Conte rued the dismissal of Arturo Vidal for dissent had left the hosts with a “mountain to climb” and admitted his side, who are facing a third consecutive exit from the group phase, had received a reality check.
“Leaving a team with 10 after 30 minutes is to kill them,” the Italian said. “I think we saw a difference between us and them. This should not overwhelm us, it must make us understand that there is a way to go.
“We must work, be eager and also humble to understand what level we are.
I don’t know if this is our most complete match of the season or not, but we produced a great performance from start to finish, intense and serious.
“We must not let ourselves be distracted by alarm bells coming from the outside, the only way to go is the path of work and growth.”
A minute’s silence took place before kick-off in honour of Diego Maradona, who died on Wednesday aged 60, and both Zidane and Conte paid tributes to the 1986 World Cup winner.