Wolves boss Gary O'Neil angry at 'absolutely terrible' penalty decision
Gary O’Neil has lashed out at an ‘absolutely terrible decision’ that saw his Wolves side lose their lead at Luton and settle for a point.
His 10-men took the lead through Pedro Neto before Joao Gomes was adjudged to have handballed a cross, which initially hit his leg before striking his arm.
The rules indicate a penalty should not be awarded, but referee Josh Smith awarded the spot-kick and VAR did not overturn it, allowing Luton to equalise.
“It’s never a penalty, it’s an absolutely terrible decision,” O’Neil said.
“If that is a penalty then we’re in a really bad place with where the rules are.
“I’ve got the rules that were sent to us on my phone and mitigating circumstances for handball are if it hits the same player on a different body part and has a significant change of trajectory, then it’s not handball.
“I forgive the referee and their reasoning is the hand is too far from the body, which I get. If the ball hits him directly on the hand then I fully accept that it’s a penalty.
“The fact it’s hit his leg – and possibly his chest too – and has a massive change of trajectory to hit his arm, the rules state it’s not a penalty. We’ve been sent the rules and told how it’s going to work.
“Last season, last second of the game against Brentford for Bournemouth, it hits Jensen on the hand and we’re all going mad asking for a penalty and I was told it can’t be a penalty because it’s hit him on the leg first.
“I just don’t understand. Hopefully they can improve the level they’re at and we can start to get our fair share.”
This decision is the latest controversial one to go against Wolves, after a last minute penalty was denied at Old Trafford on the opening day of the season.
O’Neil added: “There’s a lot at stake when you’re out there and you try to have a calm conversation with the fourth official, which I did while the check was going on.
“I said ‘just so you know mate, we’ve seen that, it’s clearly hit his leg and gone in the opposite direction and then hit him on the hand. The rule states that can’t be a penalty so I trust you’re going to come to the right conclusion’.
“You sit down and trust they will and when they don’t, I then don’t know where to go with that.
“It’s a really difficult situation as a manager because you’re asked to be calm and behave in a certain way, which I try to do, but then what I’m sent on the rules isn’t followed up.”
Wolves were left scrapping for a result after Jean-Ricner Bellegarde foolishly kicked out and was given a straight red card after 39 minutes.
For O’Neil, this was another example of the behaviour he is trying to coach out of his side.
He said: “I only saw it back on the iPad when they were doing the check and it looked like a coming together and it looked like Jean kicked out a little bit.
“I’ll watch it back to have a clear view on it and if he has kicked out, then you can understand the red card.
“Jean is very disappointed about it and apologised to the group and myself.
“It’s something we can’t have. I’ve spoken a lot about trying to fix some of the craziness within the group and this is an extreme version of it. We can’t have it, you can’t be successful in football matches if someone does that.
“The fact we leave with a point after that is one hell of an effort from everybody, but more often than not if someone does something like that, you’re going to walk away with no points, which we can’t afford to do.
“Jean is aware and the players are all aware you can’t do that and leave the rest of the team exposed.”
Despite those big decisions, Wolves still put in an incredibly poor performance in the first half as they failed to get to grips with Luton’s system.
O’Neil made changes to combat that before his side settled and the head coach admitted his frustration at Wolves’ start to the game.
He added: “I’m extremely disappointed with the first 25 minutes. We knew it would be a test of our mentality and being ready to go, and Luton were aggressive.
“They went man-for-man and we lost every duel and when it went into our forward players it bounced off them.
“When it dropped into midfield they were faster to it, so I was extremely disappointed with the first 25 minutes, so much so that we had to change shape and try and get a foothold, which I thought we did. We saw off that terrible spell and managed to make the game slightly more even.
“We then suffered a crazy moment from Jean and from that moment it’s going to be tough. I asked a big question of the players at half-time and they managed to produce in the second half to respond and fight until the very end.”