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Central Coast were denied a clean penalty and had another controversial decision against them, despite lengthy VAR reviews, in a tough loss to Melbourne City.
Two controversial refereeing decisions, complete with ridiculously lengthy VAR reviews, cost Central Coast dearly as the Mariners suffered a dramatic 3-2 loss to Melbourne City that sent the champions top of the A-League Men’s table.
The Mariners were denied what appeared to be a clear penalty and a chance to equalize on death, after Mathew Leckie stepped on Lewis Miller’s foot. This followed Melbourne City’s first-half equalizer through a controversial penalty kick against Kye Rowles.
Mariners coach Nick Montgomery said the decisions “ruined the game” and needed explaining.
“Tonight they (City) had a lot of help and for the opposition players to come out of the park and just shake their heads and say ‘I don’t know how we got on with that one’, I’ve never really had that in my career,” Montgomery said.
Miller was left with a gash on his foot from Leckie’s challenge in the 87th minute, as the Mariners trailed 3-2.
Referee Shaun Evans didn’t whistle at first but went to a VAR review and despite spending almost five minutes checking the footage, inexplicably upheld his original decision.
Miller was appalled as Mariners coach Nick Montgomery was shown a yellow card and goaltending coach Jess Vanstratten was sent off in the aftermath.
“Lewis Miller has a gash on the top of his foot and again, I don’t know how you can’t see that live,” Montgomery said.
“The reaction of the Melbourne City players knew it was a penalty, they know they gave the penalty, you see his reaction and then we have to take the player off because he has a gash on the top of his foot and apparently there is no contact.
“I’m just in disbelief more than anything.”
Earlier in the game, the Mariners were leading 1-0 thanks to Beni Nkololo’s marvelous strike when Evans awarded City a penalty after Kye Rowles rushed Marco Tilio.
The challenge clearly started outside the box but Tilio fell inside the box and to the dismay of the Mariners Evans kicked, not a free kick.
After consultation with VAR, Evans reviewed his own decision for over two minutes before sticking with it, Jamie Maclaren coolly dispatching his 10th goal of the season.
“Melbourne City’s first penalty is outside the box and that’s a fact,” Montgomery said.
“First contact is outside the box and when asked about it, the feedback I got from the officials was that it wasn’t first contact, it was second contact.
“I don’t know when the rules changed, but the first contact when the player falls, if he falls in the box and there is another contact. This is not the second contact.
City coach Patrick Kisnorbo was convinced Tilio had risen to the challenge and then fell into the box after another contact.
“From where I saw him, it looks like Marco broke the first challenge and it was the second phase of the contact that took him down,” he said.
Florin Berenguer put City ahead in the 57th minute, with Oliver Bozanic equalizing eight minutes later.
Tilio regained the lead in the 74th minute before the game descended into late chaos.