If you say that it was a tough night for Real Madrid at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano then you would be wrong to focus on just one night or afternoon because throughout the season the Los Blancos have been experiencing the same and still they are fighting. Last night, the controversial decision by the referee almost pegged back Real Madrid, but the fighting spirit of Zidane’s men came to the rescue.

Real Madrid started without Eden Hazard who earned criticism for laughing and joking around with former Chelsea teammates after the Los Blancos’ midweek elimination from the Champions League. Instead, Fede Valverde started in more of an attacking role, alongside Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior.

Real Madrid thought they had taken an early lead through a perfectly struck Karim Benzema header off an Alvaro Odriozola cross, but VAR stepped in and ruled that the right-back was a step offside and the goal was taken off the board.

Taking possession and control, Sevilla flourished and with a wonderfully worked free-kick, Suso playing short to Jesus Navas who cut inside and crossed – Rakitic’s header dropped the ball at the feet of Fernando who cut back past Casemiro and took the lead and till half time, the visitors maintained the lead.

Despite the goal, Sevilla looked wobbly in defence as Real Madrid continued to pepper Bono in the Sevilla goal with shots, including a hard hit from Benzema that had to be tipped over the crossbar.

Real Madrid ratcheted up the pressure to start the second half, pinning Sevilla deep at their own half and making it nearly impossible for the Andalusians to play out of the back. It led to a few good looks at goal, including Kroos setting up Vinicius, but the Brazilian couldn’t get a clean shot off.

Zidane went to his bench midway through the half, with Marco Asensio and Miguel Gutierrez on for Luka Modric and Marcelo, and Asensio immediately made a difference with a sweetly struck a first-time shot off a perfectly executed pass from Kroos to level things at 1-1.

The pivotal moment of the match came with Eder Militao leaping to clear a Sevilla corner, the ball had struck his outstretched arm. There had been shouts but the referee had not seen it and suddenly Madrid were broke on the counter – Benzema went round Yassine Bono, and was brought down. Racing up behind, Munuera pointed to the spot and a huge, relieved cheer went up from the stands.

VAR was needed to settle matters and Sevilla were the one celebrating when referee Juan Martinez Munuera pointed to the spot in front of Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Rakitic stepped up and cool as ice slotted home the penalty for a 1-2 Sevilla lead.

“The ball first hits Militao’sshoulder, then his arm,” Juan Andujar Oliver, MARCA’s resident referee expert, told Radio MARCA.

“It’s completely accidental.”

“For me, it’s not enough to give a penalty.”

“The play should’ve continued and ended with a clear penalty from Bono on Benzema.”

Zidane brought on the “so far useless” Hazard – in the stoppage time Toni Kroos scored a deflected equalizer, via Eden Hazard, on 93.43 and Casemiro bent a shot agonizingly past the post in the 96th minute to end the night by sharing points courtesy of the mental strength of Los Blancos.

The decision against the handball of Militao left Zidane fuming.

“I don’t understand a thing,” Zidane told the media afterward.

“If there’s a handball from Militao, there’s a handball from a Sevilla player too.”

“Nothing [the referee] said to me has convinced me.”

“I never talk to the referee, but today I’m angry.”

“In the end, it is what it is. We’re not going to change anything.”

“I’m happy with our game. We deserved more because our second half was brilliant.”

The handball decision was a kick in the teeth for Real Madrid, who needed a win to move top of the table in LaLiga Santander.

“The referee has to explain the handball law to me, but it is what it is,” Zidane continued.

“We’re going to fight to the death until the end of the season.”

“We can talk now… Nothing is going to be cleared up and that’s what annoys me.”

“We have to think about the three games that we have left.”

“I’m angry because we deserved to win this game.”

“I have my trust in football. All I’m saying is that I saw two handballs and they penalized ours.”

The table reads: Atletico Madrid 77, Barcelona 75, Madrid 75, Sevilla 71, and ultimately all four of them will feel like this was a weekend of missed opportunity, especially Real Madrid, who were undone by poor referring.

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