Lopez Caro receives seal of approval from Real players despite Greek defeat

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The Independent Online

Real Madrid's players were optimistic about the future under Juan Ramon Lopez Caro despite their 2-1 Champions' League defeat at Olympiakos in his first game in charge.

"Everything happened so quickly that it was difficult for there to be a major change in the team in such a short time because we'd only been with the new coach for a day," the centre-back Francisco Pavon said.

"Even so it is clear what he wants and that is order, discipline and a clear playing style. We were serious and well organised in the first half, we had control of the ball and made some good counter-attacks. Our only weakness was that we didn't take advantage of our chances."

The reserve team manager Lopez Caro was handed the job when Real sacked Wanderley Luxemburgo on Sunday, 24 hours after the team's unimpressive 1-0 victory over neighbours Getafe in La Liga. He is the club's sixth coach in two-and-a-half years.

Fielding a side that was shorn of galacticos such as Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham, Real made a promising start when the centre-back Sergio Ramos scored after seven minutes. Olympiakos equalised early in the second half and the former Barcelona forward Rivaldo scored a late match-winner.

"I think the team lived up to expectations," said the centre-forward Roberto Soldado, one of seven reserve team players given a run-out. "We had enough chances to be 2-0 up in the first half and if we had managed that the game would have been all over. We lost control of the ball in the second half, but the team played well as a unit and everyone did their bit."

Lopez Caro will make his debut in La Liga when Real travel to Malaga on Sunday.

For Olympiakos it was a case of too little too late in this year's Champions' League. Rivaldo's late goal gave the Greek side their first victory in Group F but previous results had already consigned Olympiakos to the bottom spot.

The win on Tuesday night provided a mixture of relief and frustration for the Olympiakos coach Trond Sollied. "Of course, it was a relief to win, not just for me but for the whole club," he said. "But I have also said before that we have not received the points that we ought to have done from this campaign and it is hard to take that we are no longer in Europe.

"The first game against Rosenborg set a bad pattern for us. Once we lost that we seemed to carry the result with us in every game."

Olympiakos lost the opening match against Sollied's former club 3-1 in Athens. They gave up points in the last few minutes of three more of their matches, losing to late goals against Real in Spain and the eventual group winners Lyon in France.

Olympiakos appeared to have repaired some of the damage when they played Rosenborg for the second time. Rivaldo put the Greeks ahead and when Antonis Nikopolidis saved a penalty in the dying minutes it seemed as though their luck had turned and they were about to record their first win away from home in 28 Champions' League games.

Instead, Thorstein Helstad slipped in to equalise for the Norwegians with two minutes left.

Some of the Greek media talked of a curse on Olympiakos but Sollied, who replaced Dusan Bajevic in July because the club's owners were anxious for European success, was not so fanciful.

"This campaign has given us more experience," he said. "Now we have to get back to the business of trying to win the Greek league so we can try again next year and that means hard work on the training field. If you work hard in training then you will improve. It's logical."

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