SportSoccer

Walters and O'Neill criticise ref for decisions that cost Ireland

Shane Duffy's 'goal' that was ruled out by the referee
Shane Duffy's 'goal' that was ruled out by the referee

Saviour Jonathan Walters was left wondering what might have been after the Republic of Ireland were denied a remarkable World Cup qualifier victory over Austria by referee David Borbalan.

Walters had cancelled out Martin Hinteregger's first-half opener with a fine 85th-minute strike and thought team-mate Shane Duffy had won it seconds later when he bundled the ball over the line from close range, only for the Spanish official to rule that defender Stefan Lainer had been fouled.

The 33-year-old said: "They've got a hard enough job but, yes, it's one of those games where he seemed to give a lot against us.

"Especially with the goal, the lad is 5ft 5in and we've got Duffy coming in. There's only one winner and it's not a foul in my eyes. It's common sense that one."

Manager Martin O'Neill was even more critical, insisting Walters should also have won a penalty after being caught by defender Aleksandar Dragovic.

Speaking about Duffy's effort, O'Neill said: "I'll tell you something now, there might have been a player called Andy Gray who wouldn't have scored a goal. They'd have to take almost 400 goals off him.

"When he [the referee] first pointed, I thought he'd obviously given it. The linesman is halfway up the pitch - he's closer to me than he is to the game. Once or twice, I was close to him as well.

"Listen, I can't change it. I thought it was a good goal and funnily enough, Jon Walters, it is a penalty, he's caught his foot."

If Ireland were disappointed with way the game ended, they could have few complaints about the result after turning in an abject first-half display against an Austrian side which dominated for long periods despite missing several of its biggest names.

In the circumstances, a draw was not the worst result with Wales and Serbia also finishing all square in Belgrade to leave Group D largely as it was with the Serbs and

Ireland locked together at the top on 12 points, four ahead of the Welsh and the Austrians when hostilities resume in September.

Walters said: "We're disappointed with how we started and we went one down, but we should have come out with the win [when you consider] the disallowed goal and the penalty.

"That's the sort of tempo we like and the way we played second half is the way we want to play. We're still in it and it's in our own hands."