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O'Neill hits out at ref after his men denied winner

By Phil Blanche

Martin O'Neill was furious with Spanish referee David Borbalan after seeing the Republic of Ireland denied a dramatic World Cup qualifier victory over Austria.

The hosts, who trailed 1-0 with just five minutes remaining at the Aviva Stadium, levelled through Jonathan Walters and then thought they had won it through Shane Duffy, only to see his header ruled out for a foul by the official, who also waved away Walters' appeals for a penalty.

Following the 1-1 draw O'Neill said: "I'm delighted to have got the equaliser and I thought that we had a legitimate, good goal disallowed. The referee wasn't totally to blame for our performance in the first half, but I thought he was very poor in the game.

"Considering he was letting things go during the course of the game - that's fine, I like referees who let things go - but he seemed to be penalising us a great deal."

Duffy's effort, which would have put the Republic seven points clear of Group D rivals Austria with just four games to play, was chalked off when the official ruled that defender Stefan Lainer had been fouled, and Borbalan was also unimpressed when Walters went to ground under Aleksandar Dragovic's challenge.

O'Neill said: "I'll tell you something now: there might have been a player called Andy Gray who wouldn't have scored a goal. They'd have to take almost 400 goals off him.

"When he (the referee) first pointed, I thought he'd obviously given it.

"The linesman is halfway up the pitch - he's closer to me than he is to the game. Once or twice, I was close to him as well.

"Listen, I can't change it. I thought it was a good goal and funnily enough, Jon Walters, it is a penalty, he's caught his foot."

Midfielder James McClean was equally disparaging about the referee's performance.

He said: "I know in this day and age, you get fined (for criticising referees), but you watched the game, you tell me.

"They (Austria) had a 12th man today. That's all I'll say on that. I'm really disappointed because we should have come away from that game with three points, but we didn't."

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