MADRID: Cristiano Ronaldo lauded the impact made by Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane as the Frenchman led the Spanish giants into the Champions League finals with a 1-0 win over Manchester City on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).
Brazilian midfielder Fernando’s first-half own goal was the only difference between the sides over two legs as Real set up a repeat of the 2014 finals against local rivals Atletico Madrid in Milan on May 28.
Zidane replaced the sacked Rafael Benitez with Madrid in crisis in January, but has sparked just Real’s second run to the final in the 14 years since he scored the winning goal against Bayer Leverkusen for Real in 2002.
“Zidane is doing a great job,” said Ronaldo.
“I admire him as a coach and a person, I hope he continues in the job.
“We’ve always been behind Zidane because he is a humble person who likes to listen, and that always makes things easier.”
Ronaldo made his return after a three-game absence due to a thigh injury, but was unable to match his own record of 17 Champions League goals in a single season in a tight game short on clear-cut chances.
“It was a complete game, the team played really well and we could have finished them off with a second goal — 1-0 is a tight scoreline but it’s enough,” added Ronaldo.
Zidane admitted he could bask in some of the glory for Real’s resurgence of 19 wins in his 24 games in charge, but reserved his praise for the players.
“I am the coach, so I am doing something right for sure, but it is not just me,” said the Frenchman.
“It is a question of all the people working with me and the most important people are the players. It is them that allow you to win in football.”
By contrast, City coach Manuel Pellegrini will give way to Pep Guardiola at the end of the season having failed to get them to a final in his three seasons in charge.
The Chilean lamented his side’s luck as Gareth Bale’s intended cross deflected off Fernando and looped over the helpless Joe Hart for the only goal of the tie.
However, Pellegrini admitted City hadn’t created nearly enough to merit a place in the final.
“Neither of the two teams deserved to win the game,” said Pellegrini.
“I don’t think we saw a superior Madrid, we pressed them, but with the ball we lacked the creativity to do damage.
“There was lot of work in the 180 minutes, but very little football.”
However, Pellegrini defended his record having taken City to the last four for the first time and believes they will have the potential to go all the way under Guardiola.
“I think it is a special season because we have reached the semis,” he added.
“We are not happy, but I don’t think we deserved to compete the final. They had that bit of luck.
“In the Champions League it is a step more, but I think this team must always try to play the final in the next years.”