Van der Vaart admits to handball for goal
The visitors stunned the Bernabeu by taking the lead in the 54th minute, but Van der Vaart levelled two minutes later in a disputed incident.
Cristiano Ronaldo's powerful free-kick was parried by Sporting goalkeeper Juan Pablo, and the on-rushing Van der Vaart controlled the ball around his middle, before firing in the equaliser to vociferous protest from their opponents.
"There was a little bit of a handball, although it was more a case of ball to hand, than hand to ball," the Dutch international told reporters, after having earlier said on television that he had controlled it with his stomach.
"It was very difficult for the referee to see if there was a hand ball, but I just want to enjoy the victory."
Sporting's Juan Pablo, who was booked for protesting, said: "It makes us look stupid. I told the referee it was hand ball because it was impossible for him to have controlled the ball without using his hands."
Real followed up Van der Vaart's goal with further strikes from Xabi Alonso and Gonzalo Higuain.