LONDON: Furious Wolves boss Gary O’Neil said bad refereeing decisions were hurting his reputation and “people’s livelihoods” after his team were on the wrong end of more VAR controversy in their 3-2 Premier League defeat at Fulham on Monday.
Willian scored two penalties—including a stoppage-time winner—while Alex Iwobi’s early strike for Fulham was cancelled out by Matheus Cunha and Wolves’ Hwang Hee-chan also netted from the spot. But VAR was once again the talking point after an engrossing match at Craven Cottage.
Fulham started the match brightly and took a deserved lead in the seventh minute with a nicely worked goal down the left, finished by Iwobi. The visitors were level midway through the first half when Cunha headed home after sparkling wing play on the right by Jean-Ricner Bellegarde.
Referee Michael Salisbury pointed to the penalty spot 10 minutes into the second half, ruling that Nelson Semedo had fouled Tom Cairney in the box, even though the defender appeared to have got a touch on the ball.
Following a lengthy VAR check Willian stepped forward and rolled the ball to the goalkeeper’s left, adding to the pain for O’Neil, whose team have been on the wrong end of a spate of controversial penalty decisions this season.
Wolves were awarded a spot-kick of their own when Tim Ream made a clumsy challenge on Hwang and the South Korean lashed home down the middle to pull his side level in the 75th minute. But there was still time for a third penalty of the half.
Salisbury had initially waved away penalty claims when Joao Gomes and Harry Wilson came together in the dying minutes but reversed his decision after VAR officials advised him to look at the pitchside monitor.
Willian made no mistake to seal the win for Fulham in the 94th minute. An emotional O’Neil said Salisbury admitted he should have been advised to check the pitchside monitor for the first spot-kick, adding a spate of big decisions had gone against his side.
“Nelson (Semedo) plays the ball and doesn’t touch Tom Cairney,” he told Sky Sports. “The referee says he felt that was wrong and he should have been sent to the monitor. “That doesn’t help me. So that one has been pretty much admitted that it was a mistake. The Harry Wilson one we disagree. I feel it was soft. For all four decisions to go against us is tough to take and we didn’t deserve that.”
He said “bad refereeing decisions” were having a huge impact on teams and managers. “This is a big club,” he added. “The impact that you are having on my reputation, and the club and people’s livelihoods is massive.
“We should be able to talk about the game and not decisions but unfortunately we can’t.” He added: “I have always been for VAR but I think it is causing problems at the moment. I think VAR has cost us there.... The fact that we have conceded two, for me VAR is not helping with subjective decisions. Maybe tonight has finally turned me against VAR.”
Fulham boss Marco Silva said his team had showed a “good winning spirit” to take three points for the first time since early October, lifting them 10 points clear of the relegation zone. But he also questioned two of the penalty awards.
“The second (Fulham) one is a clear penalty,” he added. “The first for us and the one for them were a bit more soft. I hope (VAR) can always make the right decisions because it’s their job.” – AFP