In the Premier League’s most dramatic relegation battle for years, there is huge pressure on the officials to get the big decisions right. The next few weeks will reveal if they are up to the task.
If a refereeing error costs Arsenal or Manchester City the title, everyone will remember it – but it will make little difference to either the club’s financial position or the livelihoods of their employees.
That’s not the case in the relegation battle, where relegation to the Championship means losing hundreds of millions in television revenue. The least these clubs can expect is competence.
Referees and their assistants make mistakes, as do managers and players, but VAR was introduced to correct these mistakes. If not, what’s the point? If clubs feel that they cannot trust the work of the team of officials, this is very worrying.
So when Leeds defender Junior Firpo tried to stop Nelson Semedo’s progress, he kicked the Wolves man’s boot instead of the ball, sending him crashing to the floor. With several players close at hand, it was apparent that referee Michael Salisbury may not have been certain enough to award a spot-kick.
Jonny was rightly sent off for his horror tackle on Luke Ayling late on at Molineux
There were also some confusing decisions during the game, and Matheus Nunes was sent off for his protests from the Wolves bench
Wolves were denied what looked like a clear penalty after Junior Firpo appeared to foul Nelson Semedo
Wolves boss Julen Lopetegui believes there have been some ‘unbelievable’ refereeing decisions that have dogged his side recently.
Replays seemed to leave little room for doubt – so remarkably no penalty was awarded. It seems simple: the defender misses the ball in the box, take a man – penalty. Apparently not, according to VAR David Coote.
Later, Wolves defender Jonny correctly had his yellow card upgraded to red by VAR intervention, after a terrible tackle on Luke Ayling. If Jonny was sent off, however, why not his team-mate Craig Dawson, who made a similarly bad challenge on Jack Harrison at the end of the first half?
The result means Leeds boss Javi Gracia can brush off the incident but he will not be calm if Dawson plays in a Wolves comeback.
VAR is a mess and it seems inevitable that it will cost one of the expensive relegation candidates. It’s one thing to lose because of a mistake by the referee or the linesman. This is quite another defeat because the person assigned to correct the errors in the field failed to do their job properly.
Wolves boss Julen Lopetegui stopped short of saying the officials were up to the task but he is unhappy with some of the calls that have gone against his team in recent seasons. Referee chief Howard Webb has apologized to him more than once this season, with the most recent occasion last week after Wolves were denied a clear penalty in their 2-1 defeat at Newcastle last month.
‘We are very unlucky,’ said the Spaniard. ‘The decisions of the referee until this moment [since my appointment] – it’s incredible. I can make a book.
‘Maybe when you make mistakes many times, you are unbalanced. If you can’t change fairness, maybe we need to do better. I’m not waiting for sorry, I want fairness.’
Lopetegui’s assistant Edu Rubio and club secretary Matt Wild were given an audience with Salisbury but the refereeing display was not the only decisive factor here. Every side in the relegation battle is desperate for a reliable goalscorer and a late contribution from Rodrigo will fill Leeds with optimism.
The forward is working his way back to match fitness after injury but his stoppage-time goal was a finish of pure class, a dink that gave Jose Sa the chance for his 13th goal of the campaign. Wolves don’t have a player capable of being so intense in front of goal, and this probably means they are in this match until the end.
Goals from Harrison, Ayling and substitute Rasmus Kristensen put Leeds in command on the hour mark before goals from Jonny and Matheus Cunha dragged Wolves back into it. However, Jonny’s send-off passed away at that challenge. Now both sides will have a pause for breath before the really hard part begins.
With six games for Wolves in April and seven for Leeds, there will be little room for error. The least Lopetegui, Gracia and the other match bosses expected was no more unpleasant surprises from the officials.
News/Image Sources: Daily Mail