Gary O'Neil revealed referee Michael Salisbury admitted officials were wrong to award Fulham their first penalty in Wolves' 3-2 defeat; Wolves boss also said officials conceded they should have sent off Tim Ream for a second yellow card and Carlos Vinicius for his clash with Max Kilman
Tuesday 28 November 2023 18:45, UK
Gary O'Neil says Wolves' controversial defeat to Fulham on Monday Night football has "finally turned me against VAR".
The Wolves boss re-watched several incidents from their 3-2 loss at Craven Cottage with the match officials and revealed referee Michael Salisbury and his officiating team admitted to three errors.
O'Neil conceded he may be at the end of his tether with VAR, telling Sky Sports: "I've always been for VAR but I think it's causing a big problem at the moment.
"Maybe tonight [Monday] has finally turned me against VAR. I thought it would probably help but it doesn't seem to be.
"I'm managing a big football club here - the difference you're making to my reputation, the club's progression up the league, people's livelihoods is huge.
"It can't be with all the technology, in the best league in the world, it can't be OK. We should discuss the game really but unfortunately we have to discuss this."
Incident: Fulham are awarded a penalty in the 55th minute when Tom Cairney goes down in the box under a challenge from Nelson Semedo, who gets his foot to the ball first before making contact with the midfielder. Willian converts the penalty to make the score 2-1 to Fulham.
O'Neil said referee Salisbury conceded that the VAR Stuart Attwell should have advised him to overturn his decision.
O'Neil said: "Nelson plays the ball and doesn't touch Cairney. I've watched it back with the referee and to be fair, he says he thinks they got it wrong and he should have been sent to the monitor.
"It doesn't help me and it doesn't help all the fans that have travelled all this way to help their team. It doesn't help the players, who are feeling frustrated again."
Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher said: "My gut reaction when I first saw it was penalty. When you look again from a closer angle, Semedo definitely gets the ball.
"The referee has made an interesting admission, that's a very candid and frank conversation with Gary O'Neil.
"The VAR under the current guidelines has a problem. It doesn't judge the incident, it judges whether it meets the threshold. That's where the problem is. What is the threshold? IFAB are convinced we can't have re-refereeing so we are where we are at the moment."
Incident: In the 73rd minute, Tim Ream fouls Hee-Chan Hwang in the area and Wolves are awarded a penalty.
Ream, who had already been booked, is not shown a second yellow card and O'Neil revealed after his initial discussion with the officials, they admitted the Fulham defender should have been sent off.
O'Neil said: "We had an interesting debate. He [Salisbury] thought the pen was enough.
"Since then, they've sent someone out to speak to one of my staff and said by the letter of the law Ream should receive a second yellow card and be sent off."
Dermot said: "Just because a player is on a yellow card doesn't mean the next foul is a yellow. It doesn't tick boxes for a yellow card so it's not going to be. I never considered a red card for this.
"The ball is going away from the goal. Is Ream stopping a promising attack? I wouldn't say so. Is it reckless? Certainly not. It's clumsy. The goalkeeper picks up the ball so it's not a DOGSO [denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity].
"It's clearly a penalty."
Incident: Fulham striker Carlos Vinicius makes contact with the nose of Wolves defender Max Kilman in an off-the-ball incident in the 88th minute. Vinicius is shown a yellow card.
O'Neil said in his discussion with Salisbury, the referee branded the coming together as a "soft headbutt" but the officials later admitted Vinicius should have been sent off.
O'Neil said: "He said it was a 'soft headbutt' - I said that was crazy. We can headbutt people on a football pitch as long as it's deemed soft or not hard enough?
"They've since come out after that and said by the letter of law we got that one wrong - that should be a red card.
"Do I need to tell Max to roll around on the floor when someone headbutts him? I don't want to. Do I want my players to surround the referee for a second booking for Ream?
"You can argue that two of them could go against us but all four go against us. It's a tough one for the lads, supporters and myself to take."
Dermot said: "A 'soft headbutt' is not a wise choice of words if that's was what was expressed.
"The guidelines the PGMOL issued this season on face-to-face, head-to-head contact, the consideration is is there negligible contact? That's all I could think the referee felt that it wasn't a real headbutt blow but a glancing blow. It was aggressive more than violent. But once you make that action, you give the referee a decision to make. If the referee makes the other decisions then you've not got a lot to argue about.
"Respect to Kilman for staying on his feet and not making an issue of it. He left it to the referee. If he goes down on the floor, I'm not saying it's a red card, but it ramps up the pressure on the referee and gives him a much more difficult decision to make. Kilman has done a service to football."
Incident: In stoppage time, Joao Gomes makes contact with Harry Wilson, who goes down in the area, but a penalty is not awarded. VAR Attwell advises Salisbury to overturn his decision.
O'Neil said: "The one on Wilson, we disagree on a little bit. He thinks there's enough contact there to give a penalty. I think it's really soft."
Wolves had already had four controversial penalty decisions go against them this season, and O'Neil added: "We've been here a lot this season. We didn't deserve that."
Dermot said: "This is a penalty. Gomes' first touch is heavy and his instinct is to reach the ball. He doesn't see Wilson coming. Gomes goes to play the ball but Wilson nips in. I would expect a penalty there."
O'Neil reckons VAR did not help the referee, who "would have done a better job on his own".
He added: "I don't think VAR helped him but in fact it hindered him.
"Sending him to the screen for one and not to the other, not advising him there is a headbutt or that Tim Ream should receive a red card. What is the point in VAR?
"They said they got the Harry Wilson one right [last penalty decision]. There's minimal contact and I don't think there's enough."
O'Neil believes Wolves have already been denied seven points by officiating errors this season, saying: "Bad luck keeps going against us. I've had a real, grown-up conversation.
"I'm trying to remain calm. I'm not angry with anybody. I'm not abusing anyone. It's just a conversation around, 'Come on guys, it's six or seven points that have gone against us'."
O'Neil has previously spoken to Howard Webb, the head of referees' body PGMOL this season, but said: "I won't be calling anybody. What can I do?
"I've got two options. I keep behaving in the way that I should and make my players behave in the way we should. We respect everybody and the decision-making.
"Or we start to go, 'That's not working. We're going to have to make some noise'. They are the two decisions I have.
"I've been really honest. I'd rather be a decent human being and answer things honestly but things need to get better.
"I can't accept us being on the wrong end of decisions as often as we are. That needs to get better."
Sky Sports' Jamie Carragher on Fulham's first penalty:
"I think it's extremely harsh. We speak about wanting the on-field referees to make the decision. There's no doubt Semedo gets something on the ball. He stands on his big toe.
"You can look at lots of different angles. I think it's harsh. I'm not a massive fan of VAR slowing things down. We're talking about a toe. After the ref has given the decision, VAR have got a problem because we're in the territory of 'clear and obvious'.
"This phrase 'clear and obvious' is a grey area. Different people have different opinions - how far does it have to go before it's a howler?"
Sky Sports' Jamie Carragher on VAR helping to give Fulham's second penalty:
"Again, it's harsh. The referee has got a great position, sees it and shakes his head straight away.
"When you slow it down it looks worse. When you watch at full speed, like the ref did from five or six yards away, it's harsh.
"I think it's more of a penalty than the first one - but the problem for me is, after the ref doesn't give it on field, the decision shouldn't be overturned. That's my feeling.
"I don't think it is a penalty. The ref has a great view. VAR thinks that's a clear and obvious error. I don't see it."