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Nov 12, 2012

Levante rage at referee, Real elbow anger

Sunday evening's incident-packed 2-1 win for Real Madrid at Levante brought contrasting reactions from the two camps, with the home players claiming referee Munoz Fernandez had helped Madrid win and the visitors complaining the officials had allowed Levante take an overly physical approach.

• Blog: Youth wins the way for Real

In a game played in driving rain, on a waterlogged pitch that made passing football almost impossible, Madrid went ahead through a Cristiano Ronaldo volley, but were pegged back after half-time when Levante substitute Angel clipped the ball past Iker Casillas.

In a frantic finale, Xabi Alonso's penalty was saved by Granotas goalkeeper Gustavo Munua, before young Real substitute Alvaro Morata headed an 84th winner.

The result left Levante midfielder Juanlu irate, and he claimed to reporters after the game that the officials had made sure Los Blancos won to ensure they did not fall even further behind Barcelona in the Primera Division race.

"The referee was a disgrace," Juanlu said. "He put down the Levante players a lot, warning us not to talk, while he clapped the Madrid players on the back and winked at them. The penalty was not a penalty, and the last free kick [from which Morata scored] was not a free-kick.

"La Liga was over if they did not win, so that could not happen. Mourinho has his notebook [of controversial decisions] but at the end they are always the ones who benefit."

The view from the Madrid camp was different, however, with anger over an early elbow from Levante defender David Navarro on Ronaldo, which lead to the Portuguese attacker requiring lengthy treatment on the sidelines and then asking to be substituted at half-time. Real defender Sergio Ramos accused Navarro and his fellow centre-half Sergio Ballesteros of violence.

"If Ballesteros likes boxing, he should go and do that and not football," Ramos said. "[Navarro] opened up Cristiano's eyebrow, and they had to give him five stitches. Why do you not talk about that?"

Madrid coach Jose Mourinho did not comment on the challenges, but praised his side for showing character to battle through and take the three points.

"Everyone has problems with these winter games," he said. "I had not played a game like that in such conditions. You must adapt. We switched to 4-4-2 as it was not a game to play football. When they reacted we had to show our character.

"Without Cristiano it was more difficult, but [Angel] Di Maria and [Jose] Callejon worked so hard. The crowd did not see a football game, but an honest war."

Mourinho, heavily criticised in Madrid lately for not giving youth a chance, claimed that his handling of Morata, 20, showed he knows how to introduce developing talent.

"Who brought him into the first team, took him on three pre-season tours, made sure he did not leave and gave him a first-team contract?" Mourinho asked. "It was me. The most important thing is that Morata is growing as a player and as a person. You must go forward calmly. We have [Gonzalo] Higuain and [Karim] Benzema, and the day they do not play you would say I am crazy."

Morata himself said that he was delighted to have scored, and appreciated Mourinho's guidance.

"It was very sweet," he said. "I had been close to scoring my first official senior goal in other games and I managed it today. I had chances to leave but I am at the best club in the world, with the best coach in the world. Mourinho gives me advice and help, I try to absorb them to become a better player."

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