Ref who stopped Man City’s attack against Spurs ‘devastated’, says Howard Webb

Howard Webb has revealed referee Simon Hooper was devastated after his howler at the end of Manchester City vs Tottenham.

Hooper left City players incensed when he denied a potential goal-scoring opportunity during their Premier League meeting on December 3. With the score level at 3-3, a counter-attack saw Jack Grealish break through on goal in stoppage time.

But the referee astonishingly blew his whistle and brought play back for a foul by Spurs in the build-up to give Emerson Royal a yellow instead of playing advantage. That did City no favours – and Erling Haaland’s livid reaction displayed just how important an error it was on the official’s part.

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Now PGMOL Chief Webb has spoken candidly about the incident. The former World Cup final referee admitted he was disappointed with the call, but offered his sympathy to Hooper.

Speaking on the latest episode of Match Officials Mic'd Up, Webb said: “It is an officiating mistake and the VAR has no part to play in this. We've not seen this type of situation before in the show because it doesn't happen that often. Of course, we are always looking as officials to have that positive influence on the game and identify occasions where we can allow the game to play through an advantage.

“Simon Hooper is normally good at identifying those things. On this particular occasion he sees a pretty strong, reckless foul by Emerson Royal on Haaland and it's in midfield and the ball comes backwards.

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“He does the hard work, he hesitates a moment to see if an advantage is possible but he recognises in his mind thinking it through that it was a strong challenge, it was reckless, he is going to have to caution.

“At ground level it is not as easy to see the way things are playing out as it is from an elevated view. He decides to penalise just at the moment where the ball is about to go, and then realises that a wonderful advantage was available.”

Hooper had been at the centre of a few controversial decisions already this season. He denied Wolves a penalty after Andre Onana clattered into Sasa Kalajdzic, as well as showing Liverpool two controversial red cards in their 2-1 loss to Spurs back in September.

Webb added: “For sure he was devastated. He had refereed the game really well for 93 minutes but he knows this is going to be the only talking point really close to the end of the game.

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“I understand the disappointment that Manchester City felt on this one because it would have been a wonderful advantage. He just formed the opinion to blow just at the wrong time.

“It looked like he was ready to play advantage. You never heard him shout advantage. I asked him about the arm, he said he didn't even realise he was doing it in the moment.

“Disappointing for Simon, he would have loved to have played advantage to him there. I said to him afterwards, ‘Just hold your hands up’.

“It's difficult to be annoyed at a remorseful man, show your disappointment in the moment because he was certainly feeling that at the time. We took the learning from it and hopefully he'll not do it again.”

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