Disappointed Western Sydney Wanderers FC coach Tony Popovic says a referee on “work experience” cost his side victory against Cruz Azul in the FIFA Club World Cup.
The Wanderers were just two minutes away from a dream tie against Real Madrid when things fell apart.
The Mexican side were awarded two penalties – the first sent the match to extra-time – by Ivorian referee Noumandiez Doué while both Nikolai Topor-Stanley were given red cards as the Wanderers succumbed 3-1.
Not helping either side’s cause was a disgraceful waterlogged pitch due to a torrential downpour throughout the night in Rabat.
“I have played in conditions like that before but you wouldn’t expect it in a tournament like this,” Popovic told Fox Sports.
“You expect the very best and the best officials as well but I think some of them were here on work experience tonight.
“Unfortunately we paid the price. It’s a tough one to take. With two minutes to go we were so close to getting that dream game.”
Instead of facing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and co, the Wanderers will instead have to pick themselves up for a fifth-placed play-off against African champions ES Setif on Thursday (AEDT).
Despite the heart-breaking nature of their defeat to Cruz Azul, Popovic had nothing but praise for his side.
“The players gave their all,” he said.
“Everything went against them but I’m very proud of them tonight.
“The pitch was appalling. The officiating, I probably can’t say what I really think of that…it was never going to be for us tonight.”
Featured NewsRead more
Clubs jump at chance to join $15m talent flow
One day, it might be dubbed the Sturridge Rule ? the policy change which could bring up to almost $15m of talent to the A-Leagues. Former Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge is the highest-profile recruit so far from the introduction of the so-called "designated player" rule fr
Melbourne Victory signs Italian forward Francesco Margiotta
MELBOURNE Victory is pleased to announce the signing of Italian forward Francesco Margiotta ahead of the 2021/22 Isuzu UTE A-League season. The 28-year-old has signed a one-year deal which will see Margiotta join the club until the end of the 2021/22 season. Victory head co
Marco Tilio signs two-year City contract extension
MELBOURNE City rising star Marco Tilio has signed a two-year contract extension with the Isuzu UTE A-League Champions in a deal which will see the 20-year-old remain at the club until the end of the 2023/24 season. The young forward has extended a contract which already had on