Willian’s stoppage-time penalty grabbed a much-needed three points for Fulham in a dramatic 3-2 victory over Wolves on Monday Night Football – but visiting boss Gary O’Neil was left fuming by a string of decisions and met with officials after the game.
O’Neil’s Wolves side have now lost each of their last two away games to last-gasp spot-kicks and Sky Sports’ Jamie Carragher called the latest one “harsh”, after Joao Gomes tripped Harry Wilson. It took a long VAR check to confirm it after ref Michael Salisbury had initially turned the appeals down – but there was clear contact on the Welshman.
The decision for that incident, though, was one of many complaints O’Neil took up with the officials.
Willian had already beaten Jose Sa with a penalty at the start of the half – a decision Carragher said was worse – when Nelson Semedo caught Tom Cairney. But for the second time in the match Fulham blew their advantage, with Hee-Chan Hwang scoring a penalty of his own after Tim Ream’s clumsy challenge.
Fulham boss Marco Silva pumped his fists with delight and a good deal of relief at the end of it all. His side had failed to win any of their last four and lost their last two but now move up to 14th, level with Wolves on 15 points.
Alex Iwobi had given the hosts a fast start in west London but, after Hwang had hit the bar, Matheus Cunha capitalised on some fine play from Jean-Ricner Bellegarde to head in an equaliser and Fulham’s uncertainty at both ends of the pitch was plain to see.
But a first win over Wolves in the Premier League at Craven Cottage since 2012 was eventually secured. Fulham may have been missing key defensive midfielder Joao Palhinha but Cairney and the standout Iwobi gave them bite and craft in the centre of the park.
They rode their luck, with Carlos Vinicius fortunate to avoid a red when he pushed his head into Max Kilman’s nose before Willian’s winner, and then a late, late handball penalty shout against Harrison Reed ignored and a strike from Hwang catching the roof of the net – but they found a way to get over the line. Wolves will see the contest differently.
O’Neil reveals post-match debate with officials: Ref said first Fulham pen was incorrect
“We discussed a lot of decisions,” O’Neil told Sky Sports when asked about his meeting with Salisbury. “Vinicius should have been sent off for headbutting Max. It’s clear. He headbutts him on the nose but he’s given a yellow.
“Ream should have been sent off for a second bookable offence on our penalty.
“Nelson [Semedo] plays the ball and doesn’t touch Cairney. I’ve watched it back with the referee and to be fair he says he thinks they got it wrong and he should have been sent to the monitor.
“The one on Wilson, we disagree on a little bit. He thinks there’s enough contact there to give a penalty. I think it’s really soft.
“You can argue that two of them could go against us but all four go against us. It’s a tough one for the lads, supporters and myself to take. We’ve been here a lot this season. We didn’t deserve that.”
Carra on the Fulham penalties: Extremely harsh and harsh
Sky Sports’ Jamie Carragher on Fulham’s first penalty:
“I think it’s extremely harsh. We speak about wanting the on-field referees to make the decision. There’s no doubt Semedo gets something on the ball. He stands on his big toe.
“You can look at lots of different angles. I think it’s harsh. I’m not a massive fan of VAR slowing things down. We’re talking about a toe. After the ref has given the decision, VAR have got a problem because we’re in the territory of ‘clear and obvious’.
“This phrase ‘clear and obvious’ is a grey area. Different people have different opinions – how far does it have to go before it’s a howler?”
Sky Sports’ Jamie Carragher on VAR helping to give Fulham’s second penalty:
“Again, it’s harsh. The referee has got a great position, sees it and shakes his head straight away.
“When you slow it down it looks worse. When you watch at full speed, like the ref did from five or six yards away, it’s harsh.
“I think it’s more of a penalty than the first one – but the problem for me is, after the ref doesn’t give it on field, the decision shouldn’t be overturned. That’s my feeling.
“I don’t think it is a penalty. The ref has a great view. VAR thinks that’s a clear and obvious error. I don’t see it.”
Silva: Injury-time penalty clear, the other two soft
Fulham manager Marco Silva speaking to Sky Sports:
“The second one is a clear penalty. The first for us and the one for them were a little more soft.”
How a dramatic night at the Cottage unfolded…
Wolves had scored and conceded in each of their last 10 matches going into this one and while it wasn’t a fixture which immediately screamed goals, that streak had been extended inside 22 minutes on the banks of the Thames.
- Fulham made two changes from their defeat to Aston Villa before the international break, with Tom Cairney and Harrison Reed coming into midfield, with Joao Palhinha suspended and Bobby Decordova-Reid benched.
- Wolves made one change from their win over Tottenham, with Santiago Bueno going into central defence in place of the suspended Craig Dawson.
Fulham made a mockery of their recent struggles in front of goal with a super opener. Willian rolled Antonee Robinson in down the line and the full-back’s low cross was gleefully turned home by Iwobi, who was revelling in his more advanced role. It was his first goal of the season but fourth in nine matches against his favourite opponents Wolves.
With Fulham’s tails up and Iwobi creating another dangerous moment almost instantly from the restart, Wolves were inches away with a sharp response when Hwang cracked an effort against the bar on the counter. The equaliser wasn’t long coming.
Bellegarde turned Robinson inside out before standing the ball up at the back post for Cunha to power in his third of the campaign.
Fulham’s lack of confidence at both ends of the pitch was on show when Willian hesitated and missed the chance to convert from Iwobi’s deep cross later in the half and the hosts were soon scrambling in their own box when Toti drilled the ball into the danger zone. There was then almost a calamity when Bernd Leno lost the ball as he tried to play out under pressure from Mario Lemina.
Timothy Castagne had to produce a sensational piece of defending to prevent sub Matt Doherty from turning in at the near post from Hwang’s cross at the start of the second half – and it proved a decisive moment, with Fulham winning their first penalty just three minutes later.
During the long VAR check it became apparent Semedo had got a foot on the ball but his subsequent contact with Cairney was upheld as a foul and Willian coolly sent Jose Sa the wrong way to put Fulham back in front.
That goal breathed confidence into Fulham and Iwobi forced a good stop from Sa as they pressed forwards – but once again they gave up their advantage. Ream’s clumsy challenge on Hwang was deemed to have happened just inside the box by ref Michael Salisbury and then VAR, and the in-form Wolves forward thumped home the spot-kick for his seventh of his impressive season.
The drama was far from over, though, with Wilson tumbled in the final minute of normal time. It will bring back memories of Fabio Silva’s injury-time foul on George Baldock at Sheffield United for Wolves fans, who have seen their side on the wrong end of a number of VAR calls this term. It was the fifth penalty Wolves have conceded this season and Willian made sure it was punished again, powering past Sa, who guessed right this time.
There was threat of another late twist, when the ball popped up in the Fulham box and caught Reed’s arm but the final whistle brought relief and a rare victory over Wolves to the home side.
What other decisions have gone against Wolves?
Wolves have previously been on the end of four rough VAR calls this term and O’Neil held talks with referees’ boss Howard Webb earlier this month.
The adjudication team who review contentious decisions determined that the stoppage-time penalty that helped Sheffield United beat Wolves earlier in November should not have been awarded.
Wolves were also wrongly denied a stoppage-time penalty on the opening weekend of the season when they were defeated by Manchester United.
In September, Luton were awarded a controversial penalty as Wolves were denied victory in a 1-1 draw at Kenilworth Road. Joao Gomes was adjudged to have handballed a cross, which initially hit his leg before striking his arm.
Then, against Newcastle during a 2-2 draw in October, Hee-Chan Hwang was deemed to have fouled Fabian Schar in the box on the stroke of half-time – but VAR refused to intervene.
Fulham travel to Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday December 3; kick-off 2pm.
Meanwhile, Wolves travel to Arsenal on Saturday December 2; kick-off 3pm.