Sunderland 2 Fulham 2: Martin O'Neill asks for penalty consistency with team on cusp of relegation fight

Two penalties were awarded in match at the Stadium of Light

Martin O'Neill believes referees are not sticking to the guidelines they presented to managers regarding penalties at the start of the season. O'Neill has seen his side have a penalty appeal turned down in each of their last two games. Those decisions could yet prove crucial. Sunderland remain on the cusp of a serious relegation fight, after drawing 2-2 against Fulham. They travel to resurgent Queen's Park Rangers next week, and then face a run of Manchester United, Chelsea and Newcastle in three of the following four games.

Last week, they were denied what appeared to be a fairly nailed on penalty when West Brom's Gareth McAuley blocked Adam Johnson's shot with his arm. On Saturday Sunderland were awarded one against Fulham, when Philippe Senderos grabbed hold of Danny Graham and Craig Gardner scored it, giving Sunderland a lifeline back into a game in which they were trailing 2-0 following a Dimitar Berbatov penalty and a Sascha Riether goal. However, after Stéphane Sessègnon had equalised in the 70th minute, they were denied a second penalty when Senderos handled the ball in his penalty area.

"When the referee came in to speak to us it seemed reasonably clear," said O'Neill. "We had a meeting and he showed us some examples. Whether we thought those things were penalties 10 or 15 years ago is a different issue. It's not the point.

"I spoke to the referee after the game and he thinks there are a lot of soft penalties and I'm not disagreeing with that in general, but that's not the point. If these are the rules now, and the directives we have to adhere to, then it's a penalty. That's the frustration.

"What happened last week just adds to the frustration. I think referees should be reasonably clear about what is and isn't a handball – maybe it just hasn't been passed on to me yet. I spoke to Mark [Halsey, the referee on Saturday] and, to be fair, he allowed me in to his changing room.

"I told him that I thought the penalty incident was absolutely clear cut. I've seen it twice, in slow motion and in real time but he didn't think it was a deliberate handball. Given the rules that he was part of, it's a penalty. Senderos swung around and initially the ref might not have seen it, but he carried on swinging around and hit the ball. He followed through with it. It's a penalty and it's as simple as that.

"It doesn't matter how many penalties you have given in a game. If there is another incident in the last three or four minutes, it's still a penalty."

That overshadowed a brave fightback after a grim opening. Both teams have work to do before they can feel safe, as Martin Jol admitted.

"We still need a couple more wins to be safe," he said. "Deep down I don't think we will get dragged into relegation, we always try to look up but on the other hand if you look at the situation, Wigan 24 points, Southampton 27, there are still 10 games to go and even QPR can stay up with six wins.

"It is not easy. I feel even with 33 points now you will go down. We have been in the right place at the right moments. I expect Sunderland and Fulham to be in the Premier League next season although I am not a wizard and I don't have a crystal ball."

Goals: Sunderland Gardner pen 37, Sessègnon 70. Fulham Berbatov pen 16, Riether 34.

Substitutions: Sunderland McClean (Graham, 76). Fulham Frimpong (Karagounis, 65), Emanuelson (Duff, 80), Rodallega (Dejagah, 85).

Bookings: Sunderland N'Diaye. Fulham Hangeland, Sidwell, Riether. Man of the match Dejagah.

Match rating 5/10. Possession: Sunderland 49%. Fulham 51%. Attempts on target: Sunderland 5. Fulham 5. Referee M Halsey (Lancashire). Attendance 39,312.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk
Nepal earthquake: One man's desperate escape from Everest base camp after the disaster

Escape from Everest base camp

Nick Talbot was sitting in his tent when the tsunami of snow and rock hit. He was lucky to live, unlike his climbing partner just feet away...
Adopting high fibre diet could dramatically cut risk of bowel cancer, says study

What happened when 20 Americans swapped diets with 20 Africans?

Innovative study in the US produces remarkable results
Blake Lively and 'The Age of Adaline': Gossip Girl comes
of age

Gossip girl comes of age

Blake Lively is best known for playing an affluent teenager. Her role as a woman who is trapped forever at 29 is a greater challenge
Goat cuisine: Kid meat is coming to Ocado

Goat cuisine

It's loved by chefs, ethical, low in fat and delicious. So, will kid meat give lamb a run for its money?
14 best coat hooks

Hang on: 14 best coat hooks

Set the tone for the rest of your house with a stylish and functional coat rack in the hallway
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?