‘One of worst de­ci­sions ever’ angers Smith

Villa man­ager con­demns dis­al­lowed equaliser Friend un­der fire over late VAR con­fu­sion

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Total Football - At Sel­hurst Park

Dean Smith ad­mit­ted he thought he had left be­hind ref­er­ee­ing de­ci­sions like the one that de­nied his side a point at Crys­tal Palace when As­ton Villa gained pro­mo­tion into the Premier League.

Kevin Friend’s view that Jack Gre­al­ish had dived im­me­di­ately be­fore the mid­fielder moved the ball on to Henri Lans­bury, who struck what would have been an added-time equaliser, prompted feel­ings of anger, frus­tra­tion and con­fu­sion for Smith and his play­ers.

“The of­fi­cials are hu­man and they make mis­takes, but they have to be bet­ter than they were to­day, in my opin­ion,” said the man­ager, com­ing to terms with the fact his side had been beaten by Jor­dan Ayew’s 73rd-minute goal.

“We’ve moved up to a higher level, a higher stan­dard where the play­ers you are play­ing against are of a higher level and I ex­pect the of­fi­ci­at­ing to be bet­ter but that was sim­i­lar to some of the games in the Cham­pi­onship last year.”

Smith, who thought Friend was in­con­sis­tent in his use of the yel­low card but had no com­plaints about the 54th-minute dis­missal of Trezeguet for a sec­ond book­ing, cer­tainly had a point about the ref­eree’s late de­ci­sion and was not alone in the view that his side had been hard done by.

“This is one of the worst de­ci­sions I have ever seen in the Premier League,” said Jer­maine Je­nas, as the Match of the Day pun­dits picked over the in­ci­dent.

The lack of clar­ity about the rea­son for the match of­fi­cial’s de­ci­sion, and there­fore the ex­tent of video as­sis­tant ref­eree in­volve­ment, did noth­ing to ease the con­fu­sion in the sta­dium. The in­ci­dent was fol­lowed by ugly clashes be­tween vis­it­ing sup­port­ers and stew­ards and po­lice, who ar­rested one man on sus­pi­cion of af­fray.

Con­fir­ma­tion came later that Friend had whis­tled for the div­ing of­fence be­fore Lans­bury’s shot crossed the line, lim­it­ing VAR’S role to an as­sess­ment of Gre­al­ish’s go­ing to ground and whether the ref­eree should in­stead have awarded a penalty.

Gre­al­ish was en­cour­aged to keep his thoughts to him­self as he left the sta­dium but clearly was not happy. “Sorry, I would talk but I have been told not to,” he said. “I will get my­self in trou­ble.”

Tom Heaton, Gre­al­ish’s team­mate, was more forth­com­ing and in no doubt that the match of­fi­cial had got it wrong. “The ref­eree said to us at the end he had a clear view of it, but that is not my opin­ion,” said the Villa goal­keeper. “I think there were a cou­ple, maybe even three fouls in there, a shove in the back and then Gary Cahill wipes him out. I’m not sure with VAR, when it lands to Henri and it goes in, can you bring it back or not – I am lost on the de­tails.”

As frus­trated as Smith was, how­ever, he was un­sure how pro­ce­dures could be im­proved. “I don’t know what else they can do to change it,” he said. “We’ve got peo­ple look­ing at it in Stock­ley Park [where VAR de­ci­sions are made], what else can we do to change it? We hope that it rights more wrongs than it does and we felt that it didn’t to­day.”

Nor did it help the man­ager’s mood that the chaotic fi­nal mo­ments at Sel­hurst Park con­trib­uted to the feel­ing that his side should have more to show for their ef­forts so far this sea­son.

“Our per­for­mances have been OK, with the ex­cep­tion of the open­ing half-hour at Tot­ten­ham,” he said. “I felt we were the bet­ter team against Bournemout­h and we beat Ever­ton. And we should be leav­ing here with some­thing as well. So we have been OK, but our points tally isn’t what we would like it to be.”

Heaton will spend the in­ter­na­tional break with Gareth South­gate’s squad, along with team-mate Ty­rone Mings, who has earned a first call-up.

“I’ve said to him if he needs any info on next week or any­thing he needs to bring, it is al­ways dif­fi­cult on your first trip on what to bring along or what is go­ing on, so I’ve told him to give me a bell,” said Heaton.

Ayew’s sec­ond goal in two games was timely given Roy Hodg­son’s ad­mis­sion that he wants to add to his at­tack in the next trans­fer win­dow. “We looked dan­ger­ous and though we didn’t get the cen­tre­for­ward we were hop­ing to get in the trans­fer win­dow, we still have good fire­power up front and we still have our pow­der dry and maybe a player will come up in Jan­uary,” said the Palace man­ager.

Be­mused: Dean Smith, the As­ton Villa man­ager, re­flects on their dis­al­lowed goal

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