Rafa Benitez relieved referee blunder doesn't cost Newcastle as referee Keith Stroud apologises for penalty mix-up

Benitez was infuriated when a penalty awarded to Newcastle was overturned incorrectly after it was scored

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The Independent Football

Rafa Benitez was relieved an extraordinary refereeing blunder did not cost Newcastle as they moved back to the top of the Sky Bet Championship with a 1-0 win over Burton.

Matt Ritchie had a penalty ruled out after half an hour in controversial circumstances that briefly threatened to derail the Magpies' push for the title.

Referee Keith Stroud awarded Burton an indirect free-kick rather than ask for the spot-kick to be retaken after Dwight Gayle dashed into the penalty area before Ritchie struck the ball.

Rules of the game indicated Newcastle should have been allowed a second chance from 12 yards, and referees' body Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) confirmed Stroud had made an error.

A statement from PGMOL said Stroud had apologised for his mistake.

"In the Championship game between Newcastle United and Burton Albion, referee Keith Stroud awarded Newcastle a penalty in the 29th minute," the statement read.

"As Matt Ritchie took the kick, Dwight Gayle encroached in the penalty area. An indirect free-kick was awarded to Burton, but the Laws of the Game state that that the penalty kick should have been retaken.

"Unfortunately, the referee has misapplied the law. Keith and his team are understandably upset at the lapse in concentration and apologise for the mistake."

But with Newcastle going on to collect the three points, Benitez could afford to concentrate on the Ritchie goal that did count.

The winger struck a stunning winner with 22 minutes remaining as Newcastle pulled 10 points clear of the play-off places.

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Keith Stroud incorrectly awarded a free-kick to Burton instead of making Matt Ritchie retake the penalty (Getty)

Benitez said of the penalty controversy: "You have seen the incident, you have a lot of experts to analyse, I was talking to the referee. I will not keep talking about that.

"For me it was an important game, a fantastic goal from Matt Ritchie, a great goal. There was work rate, a lot of positives and unfortunately we talk about the incident.

"The referee and me have been talking. We need to move forward. We can't change what happened. We got three points. We have to be ready to be stronger for the next one. After the incident we were losing our focus. We won.

"We knew this team was difficult to break down and to beat with a line of five at the back. We needed to make sure there was no mistake. We did it until the end and we couldn't be relaxed."

PA

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