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November 12, 2009

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Real backs troubled coach after Copa exit

REAL Madrid has full confidence in coach Manuel Pellegrini despite its humiliating exit from the Copa del Rey at the hands of third-tier Alcorcon on Tuesday, said director general Jorge Valdano.

The nine-time European champion won the second leg 1-0 at home in front of around 80,000 fans but still lost 1-4 on aggregate to the tiny Segunda B team, which plays in the same division as Real's youth side, in the last 32.

"I understand the mood of the fans and their emotions but the club cannot act on emotions," Valdano told Spanish TV after some supporters had chanted for Pellegrini to quit.

"We remain calm. There is absolute confidence in the coach. We know we have to keep working intensively and with humility so we don't suffer any more surprises of this nature."

Chants of "Pellegrini quit" rang out around the Bernabeu for around 20 seconds when the Chilean took off midfielder Lassana Diarra in the second half and replaced him with defender Marcelo.

The coach dodged questions about his future and said he took Diarra off because the player had missed a week's training recently for family reasons and he did not want to risk him getting injured.

"Of course being knocked out of the Copa by a side from Segunda B cannot be considered a success," Pellegrini told reporters.

"We are in the middle of a campaign I am sure will end on a successful note, whatever has happened here today. I am thinking more about the team than myself."

Earlier on Tuesday president Florentino Perez played down the club's trophy expectations this season.

"Our dream is to build a spectacular team but it would not be a failure if we didn't win a title," Perez told Spanish television station Cuatro.

"We are at the start of a new project. We are giving it stability. We aren't going to get nervous because it hasn't all come together perfectly in the first year."

Perez's return in June for a second spell as president set in motion a 250 million euro (US$374.5 million) reconstruction program that brought in players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema.

Alcorcon operate on a budget of just over one million euros (US$1.50 million), around 400 times smaller than Real's.

"Beating Real Madrid is a dream come true and there is a nice party going on right now in the dressing room. I think we deserve it," said coach Juan Antonio Anquela.

"The players made an incredible effort and I want to thank them publicly for that," he said.

Real substitute Rafael van der Vaart scored from outside the area with nine minutes left and Higuain hit the bar but by then fans were streaming out of the Bernabeu. The supporters that remained cheered Alcorcon's every touch and gave them a standing ovation at the finish.

It is the second year in a row Real has been humbled by a Segunda B side in the Copa del Rey after Real Union beat it at the same stage last season.

Other top-flight sides to lose to lower league opposition were Tenerife, which fell 1-3 on aggregate to second division Celta Vigo, and Sporting Gijon which lost a penalty shootout against second division Recreativo Huelva.

Holders Barcelona, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid emphatically swept aside Segunda B opponents.

Barcelona put five past Cultural Leonesa on the night to win 7-0 on aggregate, with Bojan Krkic's double opening the floodgates at the Nou Camp.

Argentina midfielder Maxi Rodriguez netted four goals as Atletico completed an 8-0 aggregate rout of Marbella and Sevilla substitute Jose Carlos bagged two as it beat Atletico Ciudad 9-3 on aggregate.

Ten-man Valencia hung on to draw 2-2 at home against Segunda B side Alcoyano to go through 3-2 overall and Villarreal edged past third-tier Puertollano 2-1 on aggregate thanks to a late goal from Italy striker Giuseppe Rossi.

Deportivo Coruna, Malaga and Osasuna also made the last 16.


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