Conor Nestor, head coach of Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng football club, is complaining against ‘poor officiating’ that cost his team dearly in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup 2020 group stage.
Nestor was particularly referring to a clear handball violation by Ceres-Negros FC player Joshua Grommen early in the match.
In a scene reminiscent of Diego Maradona’s controversial ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup, the Filipino-Australian defender scored with his hand in 14th minute, in clear violation of the rules, which, nonetheless went unnoticed and was allowed to stand by the referees.
At first it appeared that Grommen’s header put the ball in. But footage replays showed that Grommen punched in a goal with his left hand.
Even Grommen himself admitted to the violation and said the goal should have been disallowed. “I didn’t think they would allow it, but they did so I can’t complain, [I] got a goal,” Grommen told the Australian football website FTBL.
A handball violation, according to association football rules, merits a free kick or penalty kick.
That, and other ‘glaring’ officiating errors contributed to the Cambodian team going down, 4-0.
“We started poorly going one nil down, then the second goal was a handball that the referee didn’t penalise,” Nestor noted.
The football coach, who hails from Ireland, said Grommen should also have been given a yellow card. The Ceres-Negros FC defender appeared to tackle from behind Thiago Dos Santos, which earned the Brazilian forward a penalty kick in the 24th minute.
“The same player who scored with his hand also gave away a penalty kick from a challenge from behind which should be a yellow card,” he said.
From there, PKR Svay Rieng FC tried to make it a game, but to no avail.
“So, after 15 minutes we are two down and it’s 11 versus 11. Ceres are not a team you want to chase the game against,” Nestor said.
“Had the officials done their jobs it would have been 1-0 down after 15 minutes, with a penalty and 11 men against 10. That would have been interesting, but unfortunately, we couldn’t climb the odds of facing a very good opponent and a very poor referee at the same time,” he added.
PKR Svay Rieng FC’s next game will be against Bali United FC of Indonesia at the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh on Feb 25. The Indonesian team is coming off a masterful 4-1 win against Than Quang Ninh FC of Vietnam in their own group stage opener.
The three teams, plus Ceres-Negros FC, which are all in Group G, are battling to qualify for the next round of the continental championship.
“We need to improve our build-up play and we will do this before Bali,” Nestor ended.