MADRID (AP) — These days, it seems like Zinedine Zidane is spending more time answering questions about referees than about his own players.
Real Madrid retook the Spanish league lead from Barcelona on Sunday after beating Real Sociedad 2-1 for its third straight win following the break caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but the focus surrounding the team was on accusations of bad refereeing instead of praise for good performances.
Zidane made it clear he is tired of that.
“It bothers me that in the end everyone only talks about the referees,” the Madrid coach said. “It seems like we haven’t done anything ourselves on the field.”
The victory that allowed Madrid to move ahead of Barcelona came filled with controversy, with video reviews confirming a penalty kick and a goal for Madrid and disallowing a goal by Sociedad.
“I don’t want to get into controversies because there is a referee who is in charge,” Zidane said. “I only want to talk about our victory. It was a deserved victory. I want to talk about soccer, about the game itself. I can’t say anything about the rest.”
Sociedad complained of the penalty kick awarded to Madrid after slight contact brought Vinícius Júnior down inside the area, leading to Sergio Ramos’ 50th-minute opening goal. Then it complained of a decision that called off its 68th-minute goal for offside for a player who was in the trajectory of the scoring shot, and a couple of minutes later it wanted a handball by Karim Benzema before the striker scored Madrid’s second goal.
All three decisions stood after being checked by video review.
“This way, it’s impossible,” was the headline Sociedad used for the game story it published on its website.
“It’s always difficult to beat Real Madrid. Sometimes, as it was the case tonight, even more difficult,” the story said. “A dubious penalty and a disallowed goal left Real Sociedad without options.”
Madrid had also benefited from VAR decisions in the 3-0 win over Valencia and the 3-1 victory over Eibar.
Valencia had publicly complained after the goal that would have given the team a 1-0 lead against Madrid was called off for offside of a player that the team claimed was not directly involved in the play.
Barcelona coach Quique Setién tried to downplay the controversy but said it’s understandable why some VAR decisions are questioned.
“There are things that are out of our control, all we can do is keep winning,” he said Monday. “Everyone saw what happened yesterday, and everyone can reach their own conclusions.”
Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué said after Barcelona’s 0-0 draw at Sevilla on Friday that he thinks “it will be hard” to win this league after “seeing what happened” in the last matches.
“It will be difficult for Real Madrid to lose points,” Piqué said.
Zidane sidestepped the controversy when asked if he thought the Barcelona defender was referring to Madrid benefiting from the referees.
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” Zidane said before the Sociedad match. “The referees aren’t favoring us, I’m clear about that. That’s all there is to say.”
With his 68th league goal on Sunday, Ramos overtook Ronald Koeman as the top scoring defender in the history of the Spanish league.
Ramos had also scored in the team’s win over Eibar.
Real Madrid next hosts relegation-threatened Mallorca on Wednesday, while defending champion Barcelona hosts Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday.
Madrid and Barcelona both have 65 points, but Madrid has a better goal difference and a better head-to-head record.
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