Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

O'Neill in consistency plea

Martin O'Neill felt the referee failed to give a 'clear-cut' penalty in Sunderland's favour

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill pleaded with referees to be consistent over handball decisions after seeing his side fight back to deny Fulham victory.

Match official Mark Halsey did award two spot-kicks in Saturday's 2-2 draw, but waved away appeals for two more after Fulham's Emmanuel Frimpong and Philippe Senderos found themselves in the spotlight.

A frustrated O'Neill said: "It looked a pretty clear-cut penalty from Senderos handling the ball, and the referee has chosen not to give it."

He continued: "I suppose it sounds like a bit of a moan and a bit of a rant, but last week (in the 2-1 loss to West Brom) there were two penalty incidents in the game and to me, both were penalties given the directives that we have been given by the referees this season.

"One was given against us and the other one wasn't. The referee chose to miss it, and today again. While I agree with the referee that, in general, there are a lot of soft penalties being given, these are the directives we have been given.

"While 20 years ago maybe the game would have not had a penalty at all, the fact is that this is not 20 years ago, it's now, and these are the directives we have been given. I keep mentioning that point because it was the referees who mentioned it, so you can't just turn around and give it and then choose to ignore it when you want."

The referee pointed to the spot for the first time after 16 minutes when Ashkan Dejagah went down under Craig Gardner's challenge, and Dimitar Berbatov converted in imperious fashion. Full-back Sascha Riether then tapped home after Simon Mignolet had parried Dejagah's shot, but the home side grabbed a lifeline within two minutes.

Mr Halsey ruled that Senderos had tugged Danny Graham's shirt and Gardner smashed home the resulting penalty, setting the stage for Stephane Sessegnon to claim a point 20 minutes from time with the Black Cats turning in a vastly-improved second-half display.

Fulham boss Martin Jol said: "Before today, if they had beaten us, they would have been on 32 points as well. If you look at Southampton, they are in the bottom four or five - if they had beaten QPR today, they would have been on 30 points, so everyone can be dragged into a very difficult situation.

"One one hand, it's a good point and on the other hand, three points would have meant we had done the business today, but we didn't."

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