Belfast Telegraph

Bottler referee could have cost Republic of Ireland a World Cup spot, says Christie

 

By Damian Spellman

Cyrus Christie has accused referee David Fernandez Borbalan of "bottling" the decision which could have left the Republic of Ireland clear at the top of their World Cup qualifying group.

Borbalan ruled out Shane Duffy's late header for a foul on defender Stefan Lainer to the fury of his team-mates and manager Martin O'Neill as the Republic came from behind to draw 1-1 with Austria in Group D on Sunday evening.

The disallowed goal came just minutes after Jonathan Walters, who later also had strong penalty claims waved away, had equalised, with the Republic belatedly emerging from the lethargy which had shackled them during a poor first half.

Asked about the atmosphere in the dressing room after the final whistle, Derby full-back Christie said: "We were all a bit downhearted after that because we feel we should have won.

"We feel the ref's decision there at the end, we think he kind of bottled that decision. It was definitely a goal. We watched it back.

"Refs make decisions and they've got a tough job to do, and that's when you want them to make the decisions right.

"We should have put the game to bed really, with some of the chances we had, but we go again."

The Republic's disappointment was tempered later in the evening when Serbia frontman Aleksandar Mitrovic struck late on to deny Wales victory in Belgrade and leave the Group D table largely as it was with the Serbs and Ireland four points clear of the Welsh and Austria, but now with only four games each to go. Should O'Neill's men fail to claim one of the top two berths, Borbalan's intervention at the Aviva Stadium may yet be remembered alongside that of Swedish referee Martin Hansson, who famously missed Thierry Henry's handball in Paris back in November 2009 as the Republic were controversially denied a trip to the World Cup finals by France.

However, they remain unbeaten in the campaign and will head for Georgia in September hoping to return with a victory.

A win over Austria would have effectively ended their hopes of qualification, but Christie insists Marcel Koller's side cannot be written off after taking the game to Ireland for long periods. He said: "There are a lot of games and a lot of football still to be played. We just need to concentrate on ourselves and not focus on anyone else and pick up results.

"This team is full of confidence and the team spirit definitely brings us through a lot," the Derby defender added.

Meanwhile, Kevin Long was left with mixed emotions after his competitive debut for the Republic of Ireland ended in dramatic fashion.

The Burnley defender only made his international bow as a substitute in the friendly defeat by Mexico in New Jersey on June 1, and his first start in last weekend's 3-1 win over Uruguay.

However, manager Martin O'Neill named him in his starting line-up on Sunday and he emerged not quite sure what to make of a result which might have been better, but could have been significantly worse.

Long said: "The way the first half went it was probably a point gained, but then again if you look at the second half - the momentum we created in the second half, we had a few chances to score goals - you could say it's points dropped.

"But we'll take it and we'll move on."

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