Under fire: Zinedine Zidane defends Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas after Betis blunder

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane hailed goalkeeper Keylor Navas’s contribution as the European champions leapfrogged Barcelona into top spot in the Primera Liga despite the latest a series of blunders this season from the Costa Rican on Sunday.

Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas, centre, reacts after his blunder saw Real Betis take the lead at the Bernabeu on Sunday, March 12, 2017. Sergio Perez / Reuters
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MADRID // Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane hailed goalkeeper Keylor Navas’s contribution as the European champions leapfrogged Barcelona into top spot in the Primera Liga despite the latest a series of blunders this season from the Costa Rican on Sunday.

Navas pulled off a stunning stoppage time save from Antonio Sarabia to secure a 2-1 win for Madrid over Real Betis.

However, it was his own goal that put the visitors in front at the Bernabeu and he was also extremely lucky to avoid being sent-off after just 20 minutes.

“I said to him at half time ‘anyone can make a mistake’”, Zidane said.

Navas appeared to chop down Darko Brasanac on the edge of the Madrid area as he raced from his goal with no covering defenders, but referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz waived play on.

And just moments later Navas bundled Sarabia’s shot into his own goal having appeared to have the effort under control.

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■ Party over: Barcelona shocked by Deportivo following Champions League triumph

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“The most important thing for me is the support Keylor received from his teammates,” Zidane said.

“They know how important he is and in the end he made a great save to get us the three points.”

Madrid were once again bailed out by headers from Cristiano Ronaldo and captain Sergio Ramos.

Ronaldo levelled five minutes before half time. And after Betis had been reduced to 10 men by Cristiano Piccini’s second yellow card, centre-back Ramos powered home his 10th goal of the season from Toni Kroos’s corner nine minutes from time.

Victory moves Madrid two points clear of Barcelona at the top of the table and with a game in hand.

“I would be happier if we scored two or three goals at the start,” Zidane said. “But we remain calm because we know we can score at any moment.”

Just as in a 3-1 Uefa Champions League win at Napoli in midweek, Ramos and Real Madrid did their damage from set pieces.

However, Zidane wants more creativity from his team.

“Today we were patient in difficult moments and kept a cool head,” he said. “We also know we are strong a set plays. I would like to score more goals from open play though.”

Ramos, meanwhile, pleaded for more understanding from the Madrid fans after Navas was whistled for his two first-half mistakes.

“We know the Bernabeu is a very difficult stadium, the demands are infinite,” Ramos told BeIN Sports Spain. “When the players make a mistake, they need the love of the crowd. In the end he saved us with a brilliant save.”

* Agence France-Presse

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