Cyrus Christie has accused referee David Fernandez Borbalan of “bottling” the decision which could have left the Republic of Ireland clear at the top of their World Cup qualifying group.
Borbalan ruled out Shane Duffy’s late header for a foul on defender Stefan Lainer to the fury of his team-mates and manager Martin O’Neill as the Republic came from behind to draw 1-1 with Austria in Group D on Sunday evening.
The disallowed goal came just minutes after Jonathan Walters, who later also had strong penalty claims waved away, had equalised with Ireland belatedly emerging from the lethargy which had shackled them during a poor first half.
Asked about the atmosphere in the dressing room after the final whistle, Derby full-back Christie said: “We were all a bit downhearted after that because we feel we should have won.”We feel the ref’s decision there at the end, we think he kind of bottled that decision. It was definitely a goal. We watched it back.
“You look at Jonny Walters going clean through on goal and they bring him down… That happens in football. Refs make decisions and they’ve got a tough job to do, and that’s when you want them to make the decisions right.
“We should have put the game to bed really, with some of the chances we had, but we go again.”
Ireland’s disappointment was tempered later in the evening when Serbia frontman Aleksandar Mitrovic struck late on to deny Wales victory in Belgrade and leave the Group D table largely as it was with the Serbs and Ireland four points clear of the Welsh and Austria, but now with only four games each to go.
Should O’Neill’s men fail to claim one of the top two berths, Borbalan’s intervention at the Aviva Stadium may yet be remembered alongside that of Swedish referee Martin Hansson, who famously missed Thierry Henry’s handball in Paris back in November 2009 as the Republic were controversially denied a trip to the World Cup finals by France.
However, they remain unbeaten in the campaign and will head for Georgia in September hoping to return with a victory which would give them a platform to attack Serbia when they arrive in Dublin three days later.
A win over Austria would have effectively ended their hopes of qualification, but Christie insists Marcel Koller’s side cannot be written off after taking the game to Ireland for long periods.
He said: “There are a lot of games and a lot of football still to be played. We just need to concentrate on ourselves and not focus on anyone else and pick up results.
“At the start, we just didn’t really get to grips with the game. We got off to a slow start and then we upped the intensity in the second half. We should have started like that in the first half. That’s the way it is sometimes.
“We managed to get a point and at the end of it, we keep the gap between us and Austria and now we need to push on for the next game.
“This team is full of confidence and the team spirit definitely brings us through a lot. We went out there in the second half and upped the intensity, and we’ve got to start like that. If we do, we’d cause any team problems.”