Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling apologised to Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai after winning a comical penalty that was clearly not a foul in Wednesday’s 6-0 Champions League win over Shakhtar Donetsk.
With City 1-0 up in the first half, Sterling burst into the area and tripped over as he tried to dig his foot under the ball to chip Donetsk keeper Andriy Pyatov.
There was no player challenging him, let alone any contact, yet the experienced Kassai pointed to the spot.
“I went to chip the ball and don’t know what happened. I didn’t feel contact. I scuffed the ball. Apologies to the ref,” Sterling said after the game.
Shakhtar’s Portuguese coach Paulo Fonseca laughed when he was asked about the decision.
“It is difficult to speak about a penalty after a result like that — but it’s ridiculous, that’s all I can say,” he said.
“Everyone saw it, but it is not because of the penalty we lost the game,” he added.
City manager Pep Guardiola agreed that the referee had got it badly wrong and said the incident highlighted the need for the video assistant referee (VAR) system to be introduced.
“We realised it wasn’t a penalty. We don’t like to score in that situation,” said Guardiola, who conceded Sterling could have told the referee at the time.
“You know VAR and what it is — the referee must be helped because they don’t want to make mistakes.
“The game is so quick, so fast these days. It would take 10 seconds for somebody to say something to the referee,” he added.