Real Madrid moved to within a point of La Liga leaders Girona after coming from behind to beat Almeria in controversial circumstances – and it’s safe to say Xavi was not pleased
Los Blancos were 2-0 down at the break against the division’s bottom side at the Bernabeu, courtesy of goals from Largie Ramazani and Edgar Gonzalez. Carlo Ancelotti’s side were handed a route back into the match when they were controversially awarded a penalty for a handball by Kaiky Fernandes.
Jude Bellingham slotted home from the spot to half the deficit before Almeria thought they had restored their two-goal advantage in the 61st minute. Sergio Arribas finished off a fast counter-attacking move to spark delirium among the Almeria players and coaching staff. However, following a VAR review, referee Francisco Jose Hernandez Maeso felt there was a foul on Bellingham in the build-up and the goal was chalked off.
Moments later, Real levelled, and once again it came in controversial circumstances after Vinicius Jr appeared to fire home. Hernandez Maeso initially awarded a free-kick for Almeria, but after another VAR review, the referee overruled his initial decision and gave Real the goal.
The pendulum then swung in Real’s favour and it seemed only a matter of time before they grabbed the winner. It took until the 99th minute for that to happen as Los Blancos snatched all three points, with Dani Carvajal striking a cruel blow to Almeria, who have still failed to win in La Liga this season.
Speaking after his side’s 4-2 win over Real Betis, Xavi commented on the refereeing in Madrid as the La Liga title race takes another turn. “I’m left with the reflections of Garitano (the Almeria coach) and Alfredo Relano, a very good journalist,” Xavi said, via Mundo Deportivo.
“It’s going to be very difficult to win this league. I already said that in Getafe. I saw things that did not fit right for me. There have been many incidents. I remember the Getafe penalty, the incident with Raphinha in Vallecas and the goal in Granada by Joao Felix. We could have six more points. These are not excuses, they are realities.”
Meanwhile, Ancelotti defended Hernandez Maeso and admitted he got each call correct after his Real side closed the gap on La Liga leaders Girona to one point at the top. “I understand Almería’s anger with the VAR decisions, but I think they were all well decided,” he said, via Marca. “I’ve seen them. I think the referee made the right decision, not VAR. VAR warned him and he decided. And I think he was right.”
Xavi’s comments on referees in La Liga are reminiscent of Rafael Benitez’s ‘facts’ rant on officials and Sir Alex Ferguson when he was at Liverpool and battling for the title alongside Manchester United. It was an eye-opening press conference from Benitez, who blasted Ferguson in 2009.
“I was surprised by what has been said, but maybe they [Manchester United] are nervous because we are at the top of the table,” Benitez said at the time.
“But I want to talk about facts. I want to be clear, I do not want to play mind games too early, although they seem to want to start. But I have seen some facts. On 1 November, they played Hull and Mr Ferguson had a two-match touchline ban and a £10,000 fine after confronting Mike Dean, the referee, for improper conduct.
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“We started the Respect campaign, and that was when [Javier] Mascherano was sent off [last season] at Old Trafford. The referee [Steve Bennett] was the referee when they played against Wigan – he could not see the handball against Wigan by Rio Ferdinand, he did not give a penalty. They won the game and they won the title in this game. I think it will be the same referee who will be in charge of their game in hand this season [against Wigan].
“During the Respect campaign – and this is a fact – Mr Ferguson was charged by the FA for improper conduct after comments made about Martin Atkinson and Keith Hackett. He was not punished. He is the only manager in the league that cannot be punished for these things.”
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