Evans hails Millers’ character

Assistant coach Aitor Karanka was delighted with the

performances of Real Madrid’s fringe players after their 2-1 win

over Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu.

First-team coach Jose Mourinho made seven changes from the side

that beat the Catalans 3-1 on Tuesday at the Camp Nou in the Copa

del Rey.

But Madrid overcame an almost full-strength Barcelona side

thanks to goals from Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos in-between

Lionel Messi’s leveller for the visitors.

Speaking at the post-match press conference, Karanka said: “You

need all your players to deliver in a big game like this, including

the ones who play less often.

“Of all the performances of the team, I was particularly

impressed with those players. The team have shown that, whoever is

playing, they deserve to be trusted.”

However, Karanka warned his players against being complacent

after the consecutive victories over their biggest rivals, ahead of

Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg encounter at

Manchester United.

“We have to be happy with the result but if we think we have

done something extraordinary we could end up regretting it on

Tuesday,” he said.

“There’s no champagne here to celebrate anything, all we’ll be

doing is working hard while remaining excited about the rest of the

season We have to keep going in the same direction.”

Karanka explained that Madrid dealt with the pressure of having

the three decisive games – the two with Barcelona and one at

Manchester United – in such a short space of time by just focusing

on their day-to-day work.

“We work hard every day and these games make us work even

harder,” he added. “Everyone was saying that the season could be

over this week but we haven’t let us affect us.

“We just work to make sure the team is as good as possible.”

Barcelona assistant coach Jordi Roura was happy with his team’s

performance, despite the defeat.

He said: “We came here to try and increase our advantage (over

Madrid in the Primera Division table) and we have to be happy with

the team’s attitude, we stood up and were counted and had chances

to win at a very difficult stadium.

“We could have got something from the game, but we are still

alive and well.”

Roura did not comment on goalkeeper Victor Valdes being sent off

at the final whistle for arguing with the referee, simply saying:

“I went straight to the dressing room after the game and I didn’t

see anything.”

Roura did not complain outright about the penalty which Adriano

was denied in the final minutes of the game after a challenge by

Sergio Ramos, but implied he was not happy with the decision.

He said: “I don’t have anything more to say about the

refereeing. I spoke during the week and to me it is perfectly clear

if you look at the replays.”

Barcelona are now 13 points clear of Madrid in the Primera

Division table and 12 clear of Atletico Madrid, who play Malaga

tomorrow.

Roura stressed the need for his team to return to winning ways

and hold onto, or increase, their lead at the top from now until

the end of the season.

“The important thing is now to keep trying to pick up points, we

still have a significant advantage and we will try to extend it

even further,” he added.

The Shrimpers were denied a crucial victory when Johnny Mullins

cancelled out Kevan Hurst’s opener two minutes from time to

frustrate Sturrock.

“We had the chances to win the game but we didn’t take them,”

said the Scotsman.

“Four players should all have scored and when you consider

that’s against a team going for third in the table that’s quite

encouraging.

“But to concede like we did at the end was disappointing. We

should have defended much better and in the end this feels far more

like a defeat than a draw.

“We’re now six points away from the play-offs but there’s still

about a quarter of the season to go.

“There are plenty of points to play for and many of the teams

still have to play each other so there’s everything still to play

for.

“However, we really do need to get on a good run.”

Johnny Mullins cancelled out Kevan Hurst’s opener when he fired

home at the back post after a goalmouth scramble, a result Evans

felt they deserved.

“I thought for an hour we were simply outstanding,” said Evans.

“In the first half we were the dominant side which is hard to be

here at Roots Hall.

“We opened them up time after time and we could’ve executed some

situations better before they scored a wonder strike through Kevan

Hurst.

“After that, the substitutes I brought on inspired us to get the

point and we showed a lot of passion and character which is

excellent to see.

“I didn’t think it was going to be our day but we got some

dangerous balls into the box which in the end gave us the

equaliser.

“It is another game on our quest for promotion and I believe we

have the team here capable to get up.”