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Auxerre stand tall despite Madrid defeat

Midfielder Kamel Chafni felt AJ Auxerre "did not deserve to lose" after matching Real Madrid CF for much of the Group G encounter before falling to Ángel Di María's late strike.

Auxerre could not quite hold on for a point against Madrid
Auxerre could not quite hold on for a point against Madrid ©Getty Images

Having pulled in the same direction for 90 minutes against Real Madrid CF, AJ Auxerre's players remained no less united afterwards, with attacking midfielder Kamel Chafni leading the chorus of frustration following their slender 1-0 home defeat.

There was a touch of the familiar about the outcome after Auxerre had shone for much of their UEFA Champions League Group G opener at AC Milan before Zlatan Ibrahimović made the difference in the final 25 minutes. This time, Jean Fernandez's men held out for substantially longer and went close to breaking the deadlock themselves – not least when Madrid centre-back Pepe headed against his own post – only for substitute Ángel Di María to drive in the decider with nine minutes remaining.

"It was a big game so we had to be up to the task and I think we were," said Chafni, whose defensive discipline saved his side when he blocked a Lassana Diarra effort and then intercepted a Gonzalo Higuaín shot on the goal line. "We told ourselves before the match that it wouldn't be too bad to get a 0-0 draw and a point, and given how the match went I don't think a draw would have been an unfair result.

"It's a bonus that we're here at all so we want to give our best and enjoy ourselves," the Moroccan international told UEFA.com. "You might only get one chance to play against Real in your life, so we need to enjoy it as much as possible. We saw we could compete with them and could have won or got a draw. We didn't deserve to lose. We were equal to them and they weren't very dangerous, even if they kept moving the ball around."

Those thoughts could have been uttered by any number of Chafni's team-mates, with Adama Coulibaly another player who found the result difficult to digest. "We were angry because we could have got a 0-0," said the powerful centre-back. "We'd said that if we defended well, stayed together and didn't let our concentration slip, we could maybe do something. We had counterattacks and looked dangerous from set pieces, but that's football."

The 30-year-old nonetheless preferred to retain a positive outlook. "We showed solidarity tonight and that's what we have to do in the league," he explained, citing Auxerre's lowly 17th spot in the Ligue 1 standings. "Tonight we played a great match and were all united, but it was against Real. We need to show the same qualities to get out of trouble in the championship. We have to forget this match, even if people tell us we played well and came close."

That will mean focusing on Saturday's trip to face bottom side AC Arles-Avignon, but Coulibaly is also looking forward to the Burgundy club's next European outing – away against AFC Ajax on 19 October. "Everything will depend on our home and away games against Ajax if we want to finish third in the group," he said.