Controversy as penalty is overturned. Bluebirds hang on for a point
Manager David Wagner said that “decisions like that make seasons” after the Premier League’s bottom side Huddersfield Town were controversially denied a late penalty at relegation rivals Cardiff City.
With 14 minutes left, Huddersfield thought they had a golden opportunity to snatch what would only have been their third win of the season when referee Lee Mason awarded them a penalty after Cardiff’s Joe Bennett brought down Florent Hadergjonaj.
But assistant referee Stuart Burt intervened to tell Mason that it was in fact Hadergjonaj who had fouled Bennett, and Mason reversed his decision, prompting a furious reaction from the Huddersfield dugout.
“I really can’t find the words how this can happen,” Wagner said.
“The fourth official had no idea either, he was a surprised as everyone else was. Decisions like this make tables and seasons. We have had so many decisions against us and I don’t know why.
“It was clearly a penalty, the video footage speaks for itself and we have not got it.”
The result means the Terriers stay at the foot of the Premier League, eight points adrift of safety, while Cardiff remain 17th in the table, one point in front of 18th-placed Newcastle.
Nine successive defeats in all competitions had cut Huddersfield adrift at the bottom of the Premier League, eight points behind Cardiff in the first position of safety.
Chief among the reasons for their slump was an alarming lack of goals. Their total of 13 was the lowest in the division, with only five of those coming from open play.
Despite their struggles, however, there was no suggestion that Wagner’s position was under threat.
Although his job was safe, Wagner recognised the importance of this match and described it beforehand as “a game we have to win and it’s a game which can affect our season massively”.
Like Cardiff, there was no shortage of endeavour from the Terriers but their dismal recent form had left them almost entirely devoid of confidence in attack.
They did at least improve as the match wore on, enjoying long spells of possession and putting their opponents under pressure during the second half.
Then, with 76 minutes gone, Huddersfield were given a precious opportunity to score a rare goal and secure an even rarer win when they awarded a penalty.
But Mason’s decision to reverse that call was a brutal body blow for the visitors.
Although this draw stopped the rot of eight successive league losses, this point will do little to allay the fears that Huddersfield are destined for the drop.
“The boys left everything on the grass, and only one team deserved something out of the game,” Wagner said. “One point is not enough, we needed to win.”
Much like Huddersfield last season, at the start of this campaign Cardiff had been tipped by many for an instant and ignominious return to the Championship following their improbable promotion.
But also like the Terriers’ first term back in the top flight, Neil Warnock’s side had confounded their doubters to give themselves a fighting chance of surviving.
Their home form had been crucial to those hopes, with four of their five victories coming at Cardiff City Stadium, often full and intimidatingly loud.
There was another lively atmosphere on this occasion, albeit fuelled by the two sets of players’ commitment and passion rather than any quality.
Scoring opportunities were at a premium for both sides, though Cardiff felt they should have had two penalties in the first half – one for handball from Erik Durm and another when Hadergjonaj brought down Junior Hoilett as the Bluebirds winger bore down on goal.
However, the disappointment of missing out on those spot-kicks paled into insignificance compared to the reprieve Cardiff got when Mason reversed his decision to award Huddersfield a late penalty.
A goalless draw against the league’s bottom side may feel like a wasted opportunity for Warnock and his players but, given their late let-off, their sense of frustration may be tempered by one of relief.
“I think it is good there was an experienced linesman,” said Warnock.
“There was not enough contact for a penalty and the linesman made him change his mind. If that had won them the game I would’ve been disappointed.
“But I think there was a clear penalty for us on Junior Hoilett in the first half – the lad [Florent Hadergjonaj] did not see him coming and took him out.”
Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock to Match of the Day: “I’m disappointed – we didn’t play very well, we had one or two players with injuries but they gave me a shift and if you cannot win a game you have to keep a clean sheet.
“Hopefully I will get a few players in. We’re trying hard and will continue to do that, you can see we need help.”
Cardiff captain Sean Morrison: “We wanted to take three points but with our performance we didn’t deserve to win the game and we’re disappointed. Huddersfield played with a lot less pressure, it was an all-or-nothing performance from them.
“We’ve got better players than we have shown today and if we want to stay in the Premier League our performances need to be better and we need to create chances.”
On the penalty Huddersfield were awarded before referee Lee Mason changed his mind: “From my point of view it was not a penalty. It was two or three yards before he went down. The referee gave it, spoke to a linesman and overturned.
Cardiff Man Of The Match