Casemiro double as Real see off Sevilla, who rage against VAR
MADRID: Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro produced a performance worthy of a top striker by scoring twice in a 2-1 win for Zinedine Zidane's side over Sevilla on Saturday that took them top of La Liga for at least 24 hours.
Sevilla, however, were left fuming by the decision to rule out a first-half header from Luuk de Jong from a corner after a VAR review of a challenge by midfielder Nemanja Gudelj on Real defender Eder Militao.
Brazilian Casemiro, initially deployed as a holding midfielder, broke the deadlock in the 57th minute with an ice-cool dinked finish after a back-heel from Serbian forward Luka Jovic released him in the area.
Sevilla levelled in the 64th with a curled effort from Dutch striker De Jong which was allowed to stand even though the ball had bounced off the elbow of forward Munir El Haddadi in the build-up.
With Real missing a number of key players including Federico Valverde, Sergio Ramos, Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard, it fell to Casemiro to drag them back in front moments after De Jong's leveller, with a towering header.
The win took his side first in the standings on 43 points after 20 games, three ahead of champions Barcelona who host Granada on Sunday.
Sevilla stayed in fourth place on 35 points after an unhappy return to the Santiago Bernabeu for coach Julen Lopetegui, who was sacked by Real in October 2018 after a miserable tenure succeeding Zidane.
The coach reacted furiously to the decision to rule out De Jong's goal for the tangle between Gudelj and Militao and could be seen saying "this is shameful" as he walked down the tunnel at halftime.
"I cannot understand how they could rule out that goal, there is no reason at all, for me it was a huge error," he said.
"ANGRY AND OUTRAGED"
Sevilla's sporting director Monchi also did not hold back in his criticism of the referee.
"It's the type of thing you see all the time, and I refuse to analyse the game after that because that moment was key and it's absurd to try and give any analysis after a goal like that was ruled out. I'm angry and outraged," he told reporters.
"If they had ruled out our other goal, I would have gone down to the pitch and ordered my players to leave."
Gudelj added: "I didn't think it was a foul, I stayed still and Militao crashed into me. After seeing it again I still think it's not a foul and the referee got it wrong."
Real manager Zidane said he thought the referee was right to rule out the goal and suggested Sevilla had little right to complain after their second strike was given despite the handball.
"All I can say is I saw the play and there's a clear block, it's a foul for me, the referee looked at the screen and gave a foul. In the second incident there's a handball and he doesn't rule it out," Zidane said.
"I can't explain anything and I don't like to comment, referees are the ones who decide and it's a tough job. Sometimes decisions go for you other times they go against you.
"For me it's a clear block, it's a foul, it's all very normal. There's no need to complain."