Bale strikes controversial winner for Real

Real Madrid's Gareth Bale poised to score off a penalty against Levante. REUTERS

Gareth Bale came off the bench to score a controversial winning penalty against Levante on Sunday but his refusal to celebrate suggested all may not be well again at Real Madrid.

Bale's spot-kick earned Madrid a battling and, in truth, undeserved 2-1 victory at the City of Valencia Stadium where referee Ignacio Iglesias failed to reverse his decision, despite VAR exposing a theatrical dive from Casemiro.

The absence of any delight from a stony-faced Bale was telling, as he turned and brushed off team-mates' attempts to congratulate him.

"The players can celebrate goals how they want, as long as we win," coach Santiago Solari said.

This was Bale's sixth game on the bench in the eight matches since he returned from injury and it remains to be seen if his cameo will be enough to win a start against Barcelona on Wednesday, in the semifinal of the Copa del Rey.

Bale replaced Karim Benzema in the 74th minute, after the Frenchman had scored his own penalty in the first half before Roger Marti pulled Levante level.

Levante had already twice hit the post by then and Madrid will be relieved to have escaped with the points that keep them nine behind Barca, and two back on Atletico, who had earlier beaten Villarreal.

Real Madrid have been among the most vocal critics of the technology in La Liga this season but Levante were the ones hard done by this time.

Cheick Doucoure's swinging right foot was wild but there was no contact to merit the leap from Casemiro. Iglesias reviewed but retained his decision.

Barcelona, whom Real now face in two Clasicos in four days, the second in the league, also at the Santiago Bernabeu, will now benefit from an extra day's rest and also a suspension for Nacho, who was sent off late on for a second yellow card.

 

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