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Thursday, September 21, 2023

‘Keeper almost took our forward’s head off’: Gary O’Neil derides decision to not award Wolves penalty

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New Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Gary O’Neil was full of praise for his players’ performance even in defeat at Old Trafford, with Manchester United winning 1-0 desite the visitors having plenty more chances during the match.

A vibrant performance saw Wolves go close a number of times before Raphael Varane netted the winner, but a late collision between debutant goalkeeper Andre Onana and the away team’s substitute striker Sasa Kalajdzic could have proven a gamechanger – but after a VAR review, no penalty was awarded.

The former Cameroon international leapt for a cross but missed the ball and forcefully hit Kalajdzic in mid-air, leaving the striker on the deck, but referee Simon Hooper decided it wasn’t a foul and his team of officials opted against recommending a pitch-side second look.

O’Neil was pleased with what he saw in terms of performance after just a few days’ training together, but noted his side needed to find a cutting edge. “I’m disappointed of course that we drive home with nothing. What they gave and how much they committed to the gameplan, they were incredible,” he told Sky Sports at full time. “It was a really good performance but we wanted points and we don’t get any.

“We tried to overload the middle and create a little box to make a four versus three. It’s similar to what I’ve always done, it’s not me that created the performance it’s the group of players that put it in. Unfortunately we found a way to not score.”

On the late penalty incident, however, he was adamant it should have gone his team’s way – which also seemed to be the prevailing opinion of most onlookers.

“I thought live it was a penalty. It looked like the keeper almost took our centre-forward’s head off. Really surprised, I think it’s a foul. If you go for the ball and clatter a player that hard it has to be a foul, but I’m not overly surprised we didn’t get it,” O’Neil continued. “I thought as he jogged over he was going to the screen but in the end he’s booked me and not the goalkeeper for smashing [Kalajdzic].

“I understand it, I don’t accept it fully. For the onfield referee it’s a difficult decision, we can’t just leave it. A lot of people have said it’s a stonewall penalty but we shouldn’t talk too much about that – we’ve come to Old Trafford and had 23 shots after a tough spell. The group deserve huge credit but we don’t want credit without taking points.”

Opposing manager Erik ten Hag said: “The ball was gone I don’t think Andre had any influence on the touch. VAR was on our side so we’re happy with the points.”

Sky Sports’ panellists on the night were split, with Jamie Carragher suggesting he didn’t expect the ref’s decision to be overturned, while Karen Carney and Gary Neville both felt it should have been a spot-kick to Wolves.

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