Exclusive: Former Premier League Referee Makes ‘Lucky’ Coventry City Claim

Former Premier League official Mark Halsey believes Coventry City were lucky to take Mancester United to extra time in the FA Cup semi-final after a questionable refereeing decision.

Earlier this year, Coventry came within a whisker of reaching the FA Cup final when they were denied a stunning victory over the Red Devils via VAR.

Having recovered from a 3-0 deficit in normal time, Victor Torp looked to have secured a meeting with Manchester City when he steered home in added time of extra time. However, the goal was ruled out when VAR intervened. Haji Wright was adjudged to have been offside in the build up by the smallest of margins, once again raising questions over the implementation of the video assistant.

This saw the game end in a 3-3 draw, with Erik ten Hag’s men eventually progressing to the final on penalties.

It was a cruel blow for the Sky Blues. They had earned many plaudits for their run to the last four, most notably with their dramatic comeback against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the quarter final. Many thought the way in which they were denied another trip to Wembley was unjust, whilst also going against the very reason that VAR was introduced in the first place.

Although that argument can be made, the decision looked to be correct, a view shared by Mark Halsey. Despite admitting that Coventry had every right to feel aggrieved, the ex-official believes that Mark Robins’ team had already benefitted from a questionable decision themselves.

With the game surpassing 90 minutes in normal time, the Red Devils led 3-2. The 20-time English champions found themselves under a barrage as their opponents searched for an equaliser, and they were handed the opportunity to do just that when they were awarded a penalty.

United defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka was ruled to have handled the ball from a cross, delighting the fans of the Championship club. Wright stayed calm to slot home in the 95th minute to send the game to extra time.

“I think going back to the FA Cup final, Coventry were extremely unlucky,” said Halsey, speaking exclusively to The Real EFL’s Charlie Beeston.

“They pushed Man United to the end. I thought, if we go back to that game now, look at the equaliser. They got the penalty. When the referee gave the handball, they were lucky.

“That wasn’t a deliberate handball. In that situation when he’s (Wan-Bissaka) making a block, for that phase of play, he was in a natural position. His arm was down, it was by his side, and it was in a natural position. If it was stretched out, I would agree a penalty should be given.

“I didn’t think that was a penalty. It wasn’t a deliberate handball, and I thought Coventry were lucky with that.”

The offside decision sparked another debate about the call for semi-automated offsides. We have seen over the past couple of weeks how quick and effective it is at EURO 2024. Halsey believes that English football needs to adopt the technology to avoid repeats of this situation:

“Where they (Coventry) were unlucky, obviously, was that disallowed goal for offside. Now, I thought it looked a perfectly good goal. Then, you look at the replay and they draw those lines, but those lines are not always in the correct position, are they?

“That’s why we need semi-automated offsides, because then we know precisely. It (the decision) took forever. Semi-automated offside, within seconds we would know.”

Writer’s View

Arguments can be made either way on this one. By the letter of the law, Wright was offside according to the lines drawn by VAR. However, as Halsey said, there are zero guarantees that they were inserted in the right place. Whilst the technology is still controlled by humans, there will always be that element of doubt and cause for debate.

Regarding Coventry’s late penalty, it was certainly harsh on Manchester United. Wan-Bissaka looks to be lunging for the ball whilst keeping his arms in what can be classed as a natural position. There was really nowhere else for him to go. However, this is one of those decisions that would have been debated well into the night at the local pub pre-VAR.

With all that said, VAR robbed us of one of the greatest FA Cup comebacks in history, regardless of whether it was the right decision or not.

Mark Halsey was speaking to The Real EFL on behalf of Online Poker

About Jamie Ward 669 Articles
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