Published On: Mon, Nov 20th, 2023
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England VAR farce as North Macedonia given laughable penalty for Rico Lewis incident | Football | Sport

Referee Filip Glova took the gloss off of Rico Lewis’ England debut on Tuesday night by awarding a very controversial – and contentious – penalty against the Manchester City defender. Whilst jumping to head away a long ball, the full-back accidentally caught a North Macedonia player in the face with a flailing hand, prompting VAR to intervene and tell Glova to review the incident at the pitch-side monitor.

Lewis was a late call-up to Gareth Southgate’s squad during the international break, following a string of players being ruled out through injury in the originally-named team. The versatile teenager has shone under Pep Guardiola this season and he was given an opportunity in Skopje.

The 18-year-old started at the Tose Proeski Arena on Monday night as the Three Lions took on North Macedonia, lining up at left-back. Lewis shone during the opening stages of the Euro 2024 Group C qualifying clash but was unfortunately on the end of an unbelievable refereeing decision before half-time.

After a long ball was launched forward, the debutant attempted to head clear a long ball forward. The defender successfully headed the ball out of harm’s way, but the VAR alerted referee Glova to a minor piece of contact between Lewis and Bojan Miovski.

Replays showed that the City star clipped the striker in the face with the palm of his hand whilst using his arms to push through the air and meet the ball. After a pitch-side review, the referee pointed to the spot – with Lewis receiving a yellow card for the foul.

Legendary England striker Gary Lineker reacted on X: “It’s not important in the slightest, but that’s the most ridiculous penalty decision.” North Macedonia captain Enis Bardhi saw his initial penalty saved by Everton’s Jordan Pickford but was on hand to tap in the rebound and send the home supporters into a frenzy.

Speaking to Channel 4 about the incident, former City defender Joleon Lescott said: “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.

“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.”

The VAR team then threw themselves back into the limelight early in the second half after Jack Grealish appeared to have levelled the tie, following a strike from Bukayo Saka that was parried into his path.

Replays instantly showed that the winger was in an offside position as the ball was initially struck by Saka. But it took a three-minute review for VAR to reach the same conclusion, causing further frustration in the stadium and among England’s away supporters.

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