Like several matches in the 2023/2024 English Premier League Season, the final game of Matchday 13 of the English top-flight football between Marco Silva’s Fulham F.C. and Gary O’Neil’s Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. at Craven Cottage was dominated by inconsistencies and controversies due to decisions caused by the-now infamous VAR, and the 40-year-old Wolves head coach Gary O’Neil did not hide his sentiments over his team’s dramatic 3-2 loss to the home side last night. The victory was Fulham’s first in the league since their 3-1 victory over Sheffield United F.C. almost two months ago.
Wolves Came Back Twice in the Game
The home side got to a flying start in this Premier League game, thanks to an Alex Iwobi strike in the 7th minute. The Nigeria international started the attack by giving the ball away to Antonee Robinson, followed by the left-back’s one-two play with former Chelsea man Willian and a lovely delivery into the the six-yard box for Iwobi’s second goal of the season. The opening goal ignited Gary O’Neil’s men’s spirits in the game, and they went on to equalise 15 minutes later, when Jean-Ricner Bellegarde battled his way through to fire a delivery for his teammate Matheus Cunha to score, and the Brazilian rose to the highest for the header that ended in the back of the net.
Things remained all square at 1-1 for close to 40 minutes, before the Marco Silva-managed team led again versus Gary O’Neil men, this time via Willian from the spot. The decision was a controversial one, as Nélson Semedo seemed to have unintentionally stepped on Tom Cairney’s feet during the process. Willian then sent the goalkeeper to the wrong way with a clean strike into the bottom right corner for his second goal in 2023/2024.
Despite the controversial spot kick, Gary O’Neil showed no signs of giving up and levelled things up for the second time in the match with a penalty of their own. Hwang Hee-chan was brought down by Tim Ream in the dangerous zone, prompting the referee to award a spot kick to the visitors and the defender was lucky not to be sent off for a second yellow card, having been booked earlier in the first half. The South Korean striker Hwang then hit the ball into the middle spot of the goal in the subsequent penalisation for Wolves’ second equaliser in the match.
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Willian Won From the Death for Fulham with a Penalty
Just when everyone thought the game would end in a 2-2 draw, Fulham had other ideas in their bag. The final moments of the match were more than dramatic, since substitute Harry Wilson, who came onto the pitch in the 76th minute, was tripped by the other no. 8 player João Gomes in the box. The referee had to give a third and final penalty of the match, complemented with extra added time as a result.
Up stepped Willian again for the spot kick, and he chose the bottom left corner for his strike this time around, with a powerful effort that even José Sá could not defend despite him making the right guess. Willian’s second goal of the evening against Gary O’Neil’s Wolves gave Fulham only their fourth league win in 2023/2024.
Nothing But Frustration for Gary O’Neil During the Post-Match Conference
Following the 3-2 defeat, Wolves are currently 12th in the Premier League standings with their opponents last night levelled on points at 15. The result certainly does not sit well with Gary O’Neil, who took to the post-match interview to express his discontent over several VAR decisions yesterday. He said: “Nélson plays the ball, doesn’t touch Tom Cairney. I watched it back with the referee, and to be fair to him he says he thinks they’ve got that wrong and he should have been sent to the monitor. Doesn’t help me. It doesn’t help all the fans that have travelled all this way to watch the team. Doesn’t help the players who are feeling frustrated again.”
The 40-year-old Gary O’Neil continued to add: “It’s bad luck that it keeps going against us, but there are bad refereeing decisions in there. I’ve had a real grown-up conversation in there with him, I’m trying to remain calm. I’m not angry with anybody. I’m not in there abusing people. It’s literally a conversation around, ‘Come on, guys, it’s six, seven points now that have gone against us, I’m managing a big football club here, and the difference that you’re making to my reputation, to the club’s progression up the league, to people’s livelihoods is huge’.”
The Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. manager also stressed about yesterday’s match had made his disapproval towards the VAR technology for the first time since its inception, and it offered no help for a game in the toughest football league in the world. “It can’t be that with all the technology and all the time and the biggest league in the world that we’re getting so many wrong. It can’t be OK. I’ve always been for VAR but I think it’s causing a big problem at the moment. Maybe tonight has finally turned me against VAR when I thought it would probably help, but it doesn’t seem to be.” Gary O’Neil’s Wolves will face league leaders Arsenal for their next league encounter.
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