‘Never in a million years’ – Pundits react to ‘criminal’ West Ham penalty against Newcastle

West Ham twice came from behind en route to a 4-2 win over Newcastle United but the feeling amongst the TV pundits was that fortune was definitely on their side.

With the game poised at 2-2, Pablo Fornals went to ground in the penalty area after a coming together with Jacob Murphy and referee Martin Atkinson had no hesitation in awarding a spot-kick to the Hammers.

Michail Antonio took charge and despite seeing his attempt saved by Freddie Woodman, Tomas Soucek was on hand to slam home the rebound.

The award of the penalty was criticised by a number of former-players, and Newcastle manager Steve Bruce was disappointed with the call.

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“I can’t understand why the referee can’t look at the monitor himself,” Bruce said. “If he’d done that, he might have thought the decision was harsh. It was the big turning point.”

Bruce’s thoughts were echoed across the board by the pundits on duty.

“That is never a penalty in a million years,” Micah Richards told Sky Sports. “All he has to do is go and have a look at it and that is the problem with referees because they don’t want to send them over and put doubt in their minds but that is no way a penalty.”

Michael Dawson was in agreement with Richards saying: “The ball from Fornals is magnificent but when the ball comes back to Jacob Murphy, for me that is not a penalty.

“I feel Newcastle have been so hard done by, he takes the touch and he just stretches and you can see when it’s slowed down that he touches the ball before Fornals. That for me is criminal and is not a penalty, so so soft.”

The former England internationals were not alone in their criticism of the decision with Danny Murphy and Ashley Williams on BBC’s Match of the Day 2 also convinced the referee got it wrong.

“He’s [Steve Bruce] got every right to feel aggrieved by it. Let’s just clear it up. That is never a penalty, never in a million years.” Williams said.

“From what I can see there he’s took the whole ball and you can see by [Pablo] Fornals fall that it’s not natural and he gets up and tries to shoot.

“That’s a clean tackle for me and I think that for me, most decisions over the weekend the referees have got right but this one they haven’t.

“It was an important time in the game at 2-2 and that changed the game. It’s a shame and that’s not a penalty for me.”

Jacob Murphy fouls Pablo Fornals during the Newcastle vs West Ham match (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)
Jacob Murphy fouls Pablo Fornals during the Newcastle vs West Ham match (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Murphy agreed with the Welshman, he said: “I understand the referee giving a penalty and making a mistake – that can happen because it’s in the moment, but it was a clear and obvious mistake.

“It should’ve been changed and I felt sorry for Newcastle. Fair play West Ham it was a hell of a performance.”

Two ex-Newcastle stars were also critical of the ‘game-changing’ decision: “I just didn’t think that was a penalty at all despite saying yesterday that the referees had a really good weekend,” Alan Shearer told Premier League Productions.

“I think he’s gone and spoilt it because, under the new laws, the high bar for contact, there was no way. He takes the ball there in my opinion.”

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Les Ferdinand pointed out the reaction of Fornals as a clear sign it was not a spot-kick: “You see Fornals go over and I know he goes over theatrically but it’s his reaction after it,” the former Hammer said.

“If he thinks it’s a penalty, he stays on the floor. He doesn’t. He goes down and he thinks, ‘Right, I’ve got a chance of a goal here’. He has a go.

“For me, that told me he didn’t think it was a penalty. He knew the player got the ball but, unfortunately, the referee and the man upstairs gives it.”

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