Wolverhampton Wanderers head coach Gary O’Neil has risked repercussions by slamming officials for awarding Newcastle United a penalty during Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Molineux Stadium. Referring to the long-winded decision to hand the Magpies a spot-kick for a soft swipe from Hwang Hee-chan on Fabian Schar, O’Neil was brutally honest in the post-match press conference.
The Old Gold had responded brilliantly to going 1-0 down and were in the ascendency after Mario Lemina scored to equalise but the momentum was broken by the penalty being awarded. It was then converted as Callum Wilson netted his second of the game, causing a deafening chorus of boos from the home crowd as both teams headed down the tunnel for half-time.
Wolves managed to claw another goal back deep into the second half as Hwang, of all people, put a dagger in Newcastle hearts with a clever strike. Played in by Toti Gomes, the South Korean chopped inside past Sean Longstaff and composed himself to pass the ball into the near post beyond Toon goalkeeper Nick Pope. It was a superb point to claim but it’s hard to not think about what could’ve been.
“I’m really pleased with the group. We’ve suffered some setbacks, some unfortunate ones, and I think the team and everyone involved with the club can be proud of the work rate and resilience shown,” O’Neil said before slamming the referees. “It wasn’t a penalty. It was a scandalous decision – a terrible on-field decision and terrible that VAR didn’t intervene. They got it badly wrong.
“Hwang sort of has a big touch for the penalty and goes to clear the ball, makes such minimal contact with Schar, hardly any – a glance of the boot. Schar’s already on the way down, Hwang also technically gets the ball before he makes the contact with Schar. So, that’s why it was a terrible decision,” O’Neil continued.
Eddie Howe, the manager on the positive side of the call, also gave his verdict post-match. “It was contentious. Fabian’s just got to the ball first, I can see why the referee’s given it. Of course, with the long delay, you know it’s a tight call,” the Magpies head coach said. What about the case of the Bruno Guimaraes handball? Well, similar. “People behind me said it didn’t hit his hand. I’m not sure,” Howe said.
This isn’t the first time this season that Wolves have felt hugely aggrieved by an officiating mistake as O’Neil’s debut, away at Manchester United, saw Wanderers denied a penalty in added time. Jon Moss, the referees’ manager, later admitted it was the wrong call. Nonetheless, Wanderers remain in 12th with a dozen points from their opening 10 fixtures.