Thursday 22 March 2018

Frustrated Bilic hammers ref over two 'missed' penalty decisions

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic. Photo: Andrew Yates/Reuters
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic. Photo: Andrew Yates/Reuters

Mark Ogden

Slaven Bilic claimed that referee Martin Atkinson denied West Ham a place in the FA Cup semi-finals by failing to correctly judge two "crucial" incidents against Manchester United.

With Atkinson rejecting appeals for a penalty following a Marcos Rojo challenge on Dimitri Payet, before failing to spot a push on goalkeeper Darren Randolph in the build-up to Anthony Martial's goal, Bilic insisted his team would be preparing for a Wembley semi-final but for the official's errors.

"I don't want to spoil the game talking about the referees, because overall, he did a good job," Bilic said. "But there have been a couple of situations, crucial ones that go against us."

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal hit back by claiming Atkinson had called both decisions correctly, despite the referee choosing not to book Payet for diving.

"Payet was more or less diving," Van Gaal said. "He was maybe touched but not enough to fall like that. But there is always discussions about the decisions of the referee.

"We could say that also in the game against Liverpool so you can't say anything. The referee has to decide.

"I've seen the video [for Martial's goal] and I think Schweinsteiger got a push off the defender and he did not push the goalkeeper deliberately."

Bilic defended Payet in response to Van Gaal's suggestion that the French midfielder dived.

"A dive? Come on. If you have a screen, show me, I am going to defend my point at Cambridge if needed. There is more than a contact. It is definitely not a dive."

"Every decision in the box, it doesn't have to be penalty or dive. Nobody in the world can say there wasn't a touch."

Bilic admitted it was frustrating to have been so close to victory but not hold on.

"In our dressing room after the game it was kind of silent. We are a little but disappointed because we were there the last few minutes and the time when you conceded makes you a little bit down. But that is good. It shows you have confidence and are moving in the right direction."

As for Payet's goal, Bilic said: "I said to myself, 'It was a bit too far, De Gea is there, it has got to be special', and make no mistake it was pure class of magic. It was a perfect goal."

The draw sees United go into Thursday's Europa League second leg tie against Liverpool having scored just once, and failed to win, in their last three games. But Van Gaal insisted his team showed positive signs.

"For the first 15 minutes I think West Ham were the better team and they created a few chances, but after that we came back into the match," he said.

"We have created chances and in the second half we were the better team. They scored out of a free-kick. We were behind.

"We have played against West Brom and lost, and Liverpool and lost. When you come back from that I think it is amazing. There was a fantastic spirit in the team in spite of a very nasty week. I am very proud of my players. We are still in three competitions."

Van Gaal defended Marouane Fellaini after fans celebrated the Belgian's substitution in the closing stages. "I think Fellaini played a good match, he performed well in our game plan. It was the only moment the fans were not supporting our side after two losses this week, but maybe they have a different opinion to me." (© Independent News Service.)

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