England referee vs North Macedonia savaged by Joe Cole after VAR drama

In pictures: North Macedonia v England

Former England and Chelsea star Joe Cole eviscerated the referee after a controversial penalty was awarded against Gareth Southgate’s side in their Euro 2024 qualifier against North Macedonia. Filip Glova pointed to the spot after debutant Rico Lewis was adjudged to have fouled forward Bojan Miovski inside the box before the hosts took the lead.

Enis Bardhi scored on the rebound after Jordan Pickford saved his effort from 12 yards. Cole was one of many who felt that the spot kick should not have been awarded and he claimed that the official wanted to be “the star of the show” in his analysis of the penalty decision.

A high ball bounced in the area before Lewis caught Miovski’s face and after the forward went down, a VAR check confirmed that a penalty had been awarded against the Three Lions.

“It’s absurd,” Cole told Channel 4. “The ref saw it in real time and you know the guy is kidding, look at the guy rolling around on the floor. You’re going to get people running into people’s hands and elbows in the box now. The ref – we’ve found one.

“He wants to be the star of the show. Pickford does excellently to get his hand on it but the rebound drops and he can’t miss from there. I feel for Rico Lewis because he’s been very, very good on his England debut.”

Former Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott, on the panel with Cole, echoed his sentiments: “Very harsh. Very hard done by. There’s no way he knows the forward is coming. It’s in the air and it’s the palm of his hand, not his elbow.

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“Yes there’s contact but there’s no way that can be given as a penalty for me. I feel for him – he’s been one of the consistent performers in the first half. It’s unfortunate it went against him.”

England thought they had equalised just moments into the second half when Jack Grealish tapped home at the back post. However, he was confirmed to be offside after a lengthy VAR check.

Even Southgate bemoaned how long it took for the decision to be reached on an evening where the officials have come under scrutiny.

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