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Michael O’Neill ‘aggrieved’ as Stoke concede controversial goal in Watford loss

Watford v Stoke City – Sky Bet Championship – Vicarage Road
(Image credit: John Walton)

Stoke manager Michael O’Neill felt his team were on the wrong side of an error involving both the match officials and goal-line technology in Watford’s 3-2 win at Vicarage Road.

The Hornets were trailing to Steven Fletcher’s second-minute opener, which came courtesy of a cleverly-worked short corner routine, when the controversial goal was awarded in the 28th minute.

Tom Cleverley’s rising drive thumped against the underside of the bar and bounced down before Stoke goalkeeper Angus Gunn was able to grab it.

Forward Joao Pedro, who went on to score Watford’s second goal of the night from the penalty spot, barged into Gunn and sent him over the line, with referee Andy Davies then indicating that his wristband technology had detected the whole of the ball crossing the line at some point.

O’Neill concluded it could only have been when Pedro made contact with Gunn and therefore the goal should not have stood.

“We didn’t feel it was a goal, simple,” he said. “I’ve seen the replays and it’s clear the initial shot did not cross the line.

“The technology was triggered by the Watford player’s contact with Angus that puts the ball over the line. So we feel aggrieved by the goal.

“We felt the referee missed a handball in the build-up to the third goal as well.

“The officials have to look at the events as well as the technology. On this occasion the technology didn’t help them in any way –  when you see the events it was a very harsh decision against us.

“We felt there was a foul on Angus after he gathers the ball so if the technology is triggered post the goal obviously you would expect that is not a goal.

“We are disappointed with the decision but it is not going to change now and we will just have to move on from it.”

Nick Powell made it 2-2 in the 81st minute but Ismaila Sarr, who had earlier won Pedro’s penalty, netted Watford’s winner in the third minute of added time.

Watford moved up to fourth place in the table as a result, having amassed 18 points from their first 10 games on their return to the Championship.

Manager Vladimir Ivic was keen to focus on the whole game, not just the Cleverley decision.

“The first moment I couldn’t see exactly what happened but at half-time I heard that maybe we were lucky with the decision,” he said.

“But we cannot speak just about this goal. If we speak generally about the game we didn’t start well. We started to play after the goal of our opponent and this is something we need to fix.

“After that we were the dominant team and I believe we have made progress if you speak about possession, attacking moments and crossing.

“We can do better and our target will be to do that. We need to be focused from the first second to the last of every game.”