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Real Madrid downplay Almeria talk of VAR ‘robbery’ in loss

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti dismissed Almería’s anger as LaLiga’s bottom club complained they were robbed in Sunday’s thrilling 3-2 victory for the hosts at the Santiago Bernabéu.

Almeria, who are without a league win this season, took a surprise 2-0 half-time lead against Madrid. However, Ancelotti’s side responded with three second-half goals, including a 99th-minute winner to return to the top of the table.

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The game swung on three key moments after the break, with referee Francisco José Hernández Maeso awarding Madrid a penalty, ruling out an Almería strike and allowing a Vinicius Junior goal converted with his upper arm to stand.

All three decisions were made after Hernández Maeso rewatched the incidents on the pitch-side monitor, with Ancelotti lending his support to each of the calls.

“I understand Almería’s anger with the decisions, but I think they were all correct,” Ancelotti said in his postgame news conference. “I have seen them back. I think the referee gets them right. It’s not VAR making the decisions. VAR advises and the referee decides. I think he was right.”

Almería jumped out to a flying start, with Largie Ramazani opening the scoring in the first minute and Edgar González doubling their lead in the 43rd minute before the drama began after the break.

First, the referee gave a penalty for a Kaiky Fernandes handball when Almería claimed the Brazilian had been fouled by Joselu. Jude Bellingham converted from the spot.

Almería then had a Sergio Arribas goal disallowed due to a foul on Bellingham by Dion Lopy in the build-up, setting the stage for Vinícius to equalise with his upper arm. Dani Carvajal then scored the winner deep in stoppage time, ghosting in at the back post to sweep home from a tight angle.

“This is a competition that should be fair for everyone, and sometimes it’s hard to see that,” González told reporters. “The [Madrid penalty] is a clear foul and I think the second is handball. All the decisions went in their favour.”

Defender Marc Pubill added that “somebody decided we couldn’t win and that’s what happened.”

Midfielder Gonzalo Melero was equally upset, telling reporters: “The feeling is we’ve been robbed today, it’s that clear. They could not have done more for [Madrid] to get back in the match.

“And it has happened to us several times this season now. If you don’t complain, they don’t help you, that’s how it is. We have never said anything, but today surpassed all limits. It was incredible.”

Ancelotti attributed Madrid’s lackluster first half to tiredness after a difficult run of games that ended with them being knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Atlético Madrid in extra time on Thursday.

That came after a 4-1 win over Barcelona in the Spanish Supercopa final and a 5-3 victory over Atlético after extra time in the same competition, with both games played in Saudi Arabia.

“The first half was really bad,” Ancelotti said. “We were lacking energy. The team was tired. The second half was a different story and we had the support of the stadium pushing us on, which is important.

“I made a mistake with the team by picking tired players. By the 30th minute, I was already thinking of changes to get more energy.

“All I could do to change the dynamic was bring on fresh legs at half-time. Some players paid the price for the extra time vs. Atlético on Thursday. The second half was better.

“I’m more [angry] with myself than anything. Everyone wants to play, but I have to assess who is ready, who needs a rest, etcetera, and I got that wrong today.”

The win takes Real Madrid onto 51 points from 20 games ahead of Saturday’s trip to Las Palmas. Almería remain at the bottom with just six points.

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