VALENCIA, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Levante were left in disbelief after losing 2-1 at home to Real Madrid in La Liga on Sunday due to a controversial late penalty scored by Gareth Bale which was awarded when midfielder Casemiro went to ground after minimal contact.
The Brazilian took a theatrical tumble in the area when Levante’s Cheick Doukoure stuck out a leg and appeared to brush his opponent’s shin pad, with Casemiro falling in the opposite direction to where the Ivorian had swung his leg.
Referee Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva immediately pointed to the spot and upheld the decision after consulting the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) and looking at a replay of the incident.
However, Levante president Quico Catalan said: “The more replays I see the less I understand it. I’ve seen it 37 times and it seems very, very harsh to me.
“If Doukoure had really hit Casemiro he’d have had to be taken off in an ambulance, and it surprises me even more that this penalty was awarded due to VAR.”
Bale coolly converted the penalty, restoring Real’s lead after an earlier spot kick scored by Karim Benzema which had been cancelled out by a strike from Levante’s Roger Marti.
Levante coach Paco Lopez also defended his player after a chastening defeat in which his side missed a series of clear chances, including twice hitting the woodwork in the first half.
“The replay is clear and I trust my player who has told me 1,000 times that he didn’t touch him. The images speak for themselves,” he said.
“I will always defend referees and VAR and I want to believe that they did not do these things on purpose. I will keep believing that, but the images are very clear and obvious.”
Real coach Santiago Solari said he had not seen a replay of the incident but added that Casemiro told him he felt contact.
“The problem we coaches have is that we do not have a screen, but I believe what Casemiro tells me, which is that he (Doukoure) clearly struck him in the ankle,” he said.
“I’m told that the replays show that his studs hit his boots, and this is what VAR is for.”
Real defender Dani Carvajal also defended the decision to award the penalty, which secured the win that keeps Real within nine points of La Liga leaders Barcelona.
“I was 25 metres away and I could hear the kick, I’m not a referee and they have a tough job and if the referee gives a penalty and the VAR ratifies it then it must be a penalty,” he said. (Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Ken Ferris)