Belfast Telegraph

Hammers boss Bilic slams ref for keeping Red Devils in Cup

By Ian Herbert

Slaven Bilic claimed Martin Atkinson denied West Ham a place in the FA Cup semi-finals after the referee failed to correctly judge two "crucial" incidents against Manchester United.

Anthony Martial's late equaliser ensured an Upton Park replay, on a date yet to be decided, after Dimitri Payet's stunning free-kick had given Bilic's team a second-half lead. But with Atkinson rejecting appeals for a penalty following a Marcos Rojo challenge on Payet, before failing to spot a push on goalkeeper Darren Randolph in the build-up to Martial's goal, Bilic insisted his team would be preparing for a Wembley semi-final but for the official's errors.

"I don't want to spoil the game talking about the referees, because overall, he did a good job," Bilic said. "But there have been a couple of situations, crucial ones that go against us. For me it should have been a penalty on Dimitri Payet. The equaliser, it was a foul by Schweinsteiger on Randolph. I am also a bit gutted for that."

Despite Bilic's insistence his team had been wronged, however, Louis van Gaal hit back by claiming Atkinson had called both decisions correctly, despite the referee choosing not to book Payet for diving.

"Payet was more or less diving," Van Gaal said. "He was maybe touched but not enough to fall like that. But there is always discussions about the decisions of the referee. We could say that also in the game against Liverpool so you can't say anything, the referee has to decide. I've seen the video [for Martial's goal] and I think Schweinsteiger got a push off the defender and he did not push the goalkeeper deliberately."

Bilic defended Payet, however, in response to Van Gaal's suggestion that the French midfielder dived. "There is more than a contact. It is definitely not a dive. Every decision in the box, it doesn't have to be penalty or dive. Nobody in the world can say there wasn't a touch."

The draw sees United go into Thursday's Europa League second leg on Thursday having scored just once, and failed to win, in their last three games. But Van Gaal insisted his team showed positive signs. "I saw a great match between two good sides, the difference was that we have played on Thursday and they have a full week of preparation," Van Gaal said.

"They scored their goal and we went behind, but after losing to West Brom and Liverpool, it is amazing to come back like that. It shows the spirit of the team after a very nasty week. I am very proud of my players and so are the fans."

Belfast Telegraph


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