Manchester United were helped by a controversial penalty decision by referee David Coote as they edged past West Brom with a 1-0 win at Old Trafford.
In a dramatic start to the second half, Coote pointed to the spot after condemning Bruno Fernandes for bringing Conor Gallagher down. Despite apparent contact, however, the decision was overturned by Coote after he saw the incident on the pitchside monitor on the advice of VAR.
It was a decision that left West Brom boss Slaven Bilic confused while Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted his side were lucky.
“I am very disappointed with the decision,” Bilic said. “I’ve seen it a few times now, for me it’s a punishment on Conor Gallagher, it’s a clear punishment. I do not understand why he overthrew it.”
Solskjaer added: “I watched a penalty shootout this afternoon in the Aston Villa vs Brighton game and there is contact on the ball and then the man. In my head it might be a penalty kick. Maybe here we are a little lucky but none of them are given. Maybe the rules are different from how I interpret them. “
Moments after the first penalty incident, Coote pointed to the spot at the other end when Juan Mata’s cross hit Darnell Furlong’s hand. This penalty decision stood, and Sam Johnstone thought he was West Broms completely after saving Fernandes’ kick.
The guests’ festivities were interrupted, however, when the goalkeeper, who made a series of fantastic saves during the match, had strayed from his line, where VAR ordered a resumption, which Fernandes whipped into the top left corner.
It turned out to be the winning goal for Solskjaer’s side, who moved up to ninth in the table with their first home win of the season, while West Brom remain 18th.
In pictures: How the penalty drama unfolded at Old Trafford …
How Man Utd edged past West Brom …
West Brom needed Johnstone to make two important saves in the first 20 minutes to keep Anthony Martial in check.
The Manchester United academy candidate palmed off Martial’s header within the first 100 seconds before making an even better save to keep the French striker’s powerful low shots out after being beaten by Fernandes.
Man Utd: De Gea (7), Wan-Bissaka (6), Lindelof (6), Maguire (6), Telles (6), Matic (5), Fred (6), Mata (6), Fernandes (7), Martial ( 6), Rashford (5).
Subs: Cavani (6), Van de Beek (not relevant), McTominay (not relevant).
West Brom: Johnstone (8), Furlong (6), Ajayi (7), Bartley (7), Ivanovic (7), Townsend (6), Diangana (7), Gallagher (7), Sawyers (6), Pereira (6), Grants (7).
Subs: Robson-Kanu (6), Robinson (6), Krovinovic (not applicable).
Man of the match: Sam Johnstone.
At full stretch, Johnstone produced a strong hand to keep the strike away, which was tied to the bottom corner from close range.
Despite United’s early chances, West Brom were not just at Old Trafford to make up for the numbers. Karlan Grant pulled a real crowd pleaser as he, after 39 minutes, wove through the guests’ entire central defense and put the 1 – 1 equalizer away.
West Brom grew in confidence as they continued to frustrate United and Kyle Bartley went close after winning an air battle with Harry Maguire, but as De Gea was only able to see, the ball ran inches over the crossbar.
Then came the chaos!
United breathed a huge sigh within minutes of restarting.
Coote pointed to the penalty spot as Fernandes appeared to come in contact with Gallagher’s shins in the box. The Portuguese international pleaded not guilty, claiming a touch on the ball, and Coote was advised to go to the pitch on the monitor of the VAR.
Replays suggested contact between Fernandes and Gallagher, but Coote eventually overturned the decision.
That was not Coote’s final commitment as he quickly awarded United a penalty kick after Mata’s cross hit Furlong’s arm. Fernandes was once again involved in the penalty drama when Johnstone saved his spot-kick, but VAR ordered a resumption after the goalkeeper had moved off his line to save.
- Man Utd: Alex Telles recovered from Covid-19 to start his first Premier League start for Manchester United, with Luke Shaw completely missing from the team. Elsewhere, Nemanja Matic came in for Scott McTominay, while Victor Lindelof and Marcus Rashford both shook strokes to start. There was no Paul Pogba in the team at all after the Frenchman aggravated a knock in training.
- West Brom: Branislav Ivanovic and Matheus Pereira returned to the starting line-up for West Brom after positive Covid-19 tests that ruled them out of Spurs’ defeat before the international break while Callum Robinson was on the bench. Filip Krovinovic also joined him among the substitutes where Romaine Sawyers restored to the starting lineup. Captain Jake Livermore was also absent from the visitors.
Fernandes went up to convert without making a mistake the second time asking to punish Johnstone’s only mistake of the night.
West Brom tried to even things up by sending a long ball towards the centrally placed strikers, but the visitors’ defense got the best of this rather direct style of play.
At the other end, however, Johnstone had to be at his best between the sticks. The goalkeeper showed excellent reflexes to tip Marcus Rashford’s effort wide.
Furlong’s last challenge prevented Martial from adding another in stoppage time as United’s wait for a home win ended while West Brom were left scraping their heads on how they got nothing out of the game.
Cootes late switch
Referee David Coote was to be the video assistant referee for Sunday’s Premier League match between Liverpool and Leicester, but he was replaced by Andre Marriner and switched to refereeing the game at Old Trafford.
Coote was VAR on guard for a 2-2 draw at Goodison Park last month, with Jordan Pickford escaping with a red card for his challenge to Virgil van Dijk, a tackle that left Liverpool captain in need of knee injury surgery and has put him on the field for an extended period.
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær: “It’s nice after the international break that you get a win. We needed that win at home. We looked uneasy towards the end, even though we had to score one or two more to get a more relaxed finish. It is never comfortable against players of this quality.They had a few chances and David [de Gea] made two amazing saves. Tight margins determine play, but the mood is determined by the results.
“It’s up to us to create momentum, we have the chance to continue the good start in the Champions League and Southampton away is also a very difficult game. Hopefully we get a few back and can kick on.”
On West Broms sanction: “I watched a penalty shootout this afternoon, Villa-Brighton, and there is contact on the ball and then the man. In my head it might be a penalty kick. Maybe here we’re a little lucky, but none of them are given. Maybe the rules is different from how I interpret them. “
West brom boss Slaven Bilic: “We played well. We had a couple of chances to score. We were there. I told the guys I’m disappointed, I think we deserved something. We deserved to go ahead in the second half. I asked them to stay. positive and stay and fight and train, then we win games. “
On the penalty they had overturned: “I’m very disappointed with the decision. I felt like ‘little West Brom’. All these crucial decisions went against us. I’ve seen it a few times and it’s a clear punishment. I do not understand why he overthrew it. “
On United’s penalty: “It’s a handball. It’s a little unfortunate, but it’s handball. Before that it was a clear free kick on Conor Gallagher. Instead of 1-0 for us, it’s 1-0 for them. When you play against Manchester United on away from home, it’s a huge difference. “
Man of Fight – Sam Johnstone
The former Manchester United academy player is probably thinking about what could have been after a night of loud drama at Old Trafford.
The 27-year-old pulled out a brilliant save to keep Fernandes’ original penalty out, but he clearly crawled from his line and could not keep the second attempt out.
In the end, it was his only mistake one night where he made a series of fine saves to keep Manchester United in check and it proved to be costly.
But that should not remove his fine screen. He was the prominent player on the pitch and his save to deny Martial in the first half and Rashford in the second was of the highest order.
Opta stats – United back to Premier League winning opportunities at Old Trafford
- Manchester United have won their first home league game of the season and finished a race of six games in a row without a win (D3 L3) since July (5-2 against Bournemouth).
- Bruno Fernandes’ opener was Man Utd’s first home goal in 324 minutes of football since his 2nd minute penalty in the 1-6 defeat to Spurs in October.
- Since the start of last season, 16% of Man Utd’s PL goals have been penalties (13/79), the highest ratio for any team that has played in both seasons.
- Half of Fernandes’ Premier League goals for Man Utd have been penalties (7/14), the highest ratio for any player to score for the club in the competition.
Manchester United are back in action on Tuesday when they face Istanbul Basaksehir in the Champions League at Old Trafford; Start 20.00.
In the Premier League, their next task is a trip to Southampton on Sunday 29 November, live on Super Sunday; Start 14:00, continue Sky Sports Premier League and Sky Sports Main Event.
Meanwhile, West Brom face Sheffield United at The Hawthorns next Saturday, live on Sky Sports Premier League and Sky Sports Main Event; Start 20.00.