Leo Beenhakker, the veteran coach of Poland, last night accused English referee Howard Webb of wishing to "show what a big boy he is" in giving the last-minute penalty from which Austria rescued their prospects of progressing at Euro 2008.
Poland led 1-0 through a goal that assistant Mike Mullarkey, another English official, should probably have ruled offside, when the Yorkshire policeman bravely became the first referee at these finals to punish a defender for shirt-pulling in the box. He spotted Mariusz Lewandowski grappling Sebastian Prodl.
Ivica Vastic, Austria's 38-year-old veteran, tucked away the sport-kick leaving Beenhakker incandescent with anger. Asked if it was just bad luck that Poland should be the first team punished for such a common offence, he said: "You think so? I am 43 years in this business, I think always very correct with referees, never suspended, but this is something I really, really cannot understand.
"I don't know why but probably in a moment the ref sees something nobody saw and probably wants to show he is a big boy," he added. "Someone was pushing a little bit I suppose."
Webb was officiating in his first match in a major tournament, 19 years after starting out as a schoolboy in the Rotherham Sunday leagues. That he should have given Austria a penalty 45 minutes earlier did not soothe Beenhakker's ire. "I would have felt the same," admitted Josef Hickersberger, the Austrian coach.
There would have been no controversy but for Boruc. The Celtic keeper made three one-on-one saves from Martin Harnik, twice, and Christoph Leitgeb to keep Poland afloat before Brazilian-born Roger Guerreiro stole a 30th-minute lead.
Euzebiusz Smolarek found Marek Saganowski on the left. The Southampton striker turned his defender then hit a shot which bobbled through three minor deflections before being tapped in by Guerreiro. It was a marginal offside call but, while replays were inconclusive, they did suggest Mullarkey may have got it wrong.
Two minutes after the break Andreas Ivanschitz was manhandled in the box by half-time substitute Pawel Golanski. The Austrian captain did not go down straight away, then dived. Webb penalised Ivanschitz for his initial honesty.
Austria lost heart and Jürgen Macho needed to foil Smolarek, Jacek Bak and Golanski to keep them in the game. Then came Webb's intervention.
Austria have hope, but they also have to beat Germany on Monday to qualify, and hope Poland achieve less against a Croatian team who, with this result, are through.
Austria (4-1-3-2): Macho (AEK Athens); Garics (Napoli), Proedl (Sturm Graz), Stranzl (Spartak Moscow), Pogatetz (Middlesbrough); Aufhauser (Salzburg); Ivanschitz (Panathinaikos), Leitgeb (Salzburg), Korkmaz (Rapid Vienna); Harnik (Werder Bremen), Linz (Sporting Braga). Substitutes: Vastic (Linz) for Ivanschitz, 64; Kienast (Ham-Kam) for Linz, 64; Saumel (Sturm Graz) for Aufhauser, 74.
Poland (4-2-3-1): Boruc (Celtic); Wasilewski (Anderlecht), Jop (FC Moscow), Bak (Austria Vienna), Zewlakow (Olympiakos); Dudka (Wisla Krakow), Lewandowski (Shakhtar Donetsk); Krzynowek (Wolfsburg) Saganowski (Southampton), Guerreiro (Legia Warsaw); Smolarek (Racing Santander). Substitutes: Golanski (Steaua Bucharest) for Jop, h/t ; Lobodzinski (Wisla Krakow) for Saganowski, 83; Murawski (Lech Poznan) for Guerreiro, 85
Referee: H Webb (England).
Booked: Austria Prodl, Korkmaz; Poland Krzynowek, Wasilewski, Bak.
Man of the match Boruc.Reuse content