Atletico Madrid coach Quique Sanchez Flores admits the buck stops with him after seeing his side slump to a demoralising home defeat at the hands of bottom club Xerez.
Atletico have been no strangers to disappointment this season and the team, not for the first time, left the pitch after last night’s 2-1 loss with jeers ringing out around the Vicente Calderon.
Sanchez Flores, who has led Atletico to the Copa del Rey final and Europa League semi-finals since taking charge in October but has still to eradicate the inconsistencies that have plagued the Rojiblancos in recent years, said: “I’m the main person responsible in every facet, planning, substitutions and not being able to change the game. The defeat has returned us to past situations.
“I prefer to think that this is a personal mistake and not a collective one.”
Improving Xerez, who have now picked up 15 points from their last nine games having previously earned just 11 in 23 outings, stunned Atletico by taking a ninth-minute lead through Mario Bermejo’s looping header.
The home side needed just three minutes to get back on level terms thanks to Diego Forlan’s piledriver, but the night was to end in defeat for the hosts as Emiliano Armenteros headed home Xerez’s winner 18 minutes from time.
The result leaves Atletico down in 10th place in the standings and they will fall 11 points behind the European places if sixth-placed Athletic Bilbao beat Valencia this evening.
“We all knew about their (Xerez’s) change. In the second half of the season they’ve been one of the best teams in the Primera Division,” said Sanchez Flores.
“They played with a lot of intensity, but I repeat that the fault was mine and not that of the players. We were not at our best and we cannot play like that in front of our fans. I apologise to them.”
Atletico, who also lost 3-0 at Espanyol last Sunday, need to dust themselves off quickly as they travel to eighth-placed Villarreal this weekend before facing Liverpool in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final next Thursday.
Midfielder Paulo Assuncao said on his club’s website: “We have to lift our heads and think about the important game we have against Villarreal, where we can make up for this loss.
“Now we have to change our mindset for Saturday’s game and then we’ll have time to think about Liverpool.”