David Wagner fumes as Huddersfield see penalty denied in draw with Cardiff | Football
For a game of such magnitude in the fight for survival, a bore draw was an unwelcome outcome for both parties yet Huddersfield left the Welsh capital aggrieved at what might have been. Lee Mason, the referee, awarded Huddersfield a penalty with 14 minutes to play after Joe Bennett brought down Florent Hadergjonaj. But when his assistant flagged to inform Mason that Hadergjonaj had in fact fouled Bennett, the referee reversed his decision.
Cardiff may have failed to register a shot on target, or the win they craved, but Huddersfield look doomed. David Wagner’s side face Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in three of their next four games and this was a 10th consecutive match without victory. They are eight points adrift of safety while no team in Premier League history has avoided relegation after accumulating only 11 points by this stage of the season.
It may be barely mid-January but both Wagner and Neil Warnock acknowledged the pain at passing up the chance to gain three points here. Huddersfield have been drinking in the last chance saloon for a while, arguably since November – when they last tasted victory – but Wagner fumed at the match officials for removing a lifeline in their battle against the drop.
“I have no clue what was in their heads in that moment,” the manager said. “I think they struggled to try to repair [the decision] what they have done. The whole situation makes absolutely no sense. I have seen the video footage and I have to say that it was a clear pen.
“It would have been the clearest-cut chance of the whole game and they took it away from us. We will probably receive another phone call from the FA this week, where they will apologise for the referee’s decision, but this doesn’t help us.”
Huddersfield may have stopped the rot after nine consecutive defeats and probably shaded play, though both teams mustered only half-chances. Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was Cardiff’s catalyst and, after skipping away from Erik Durm, he whipped a delicious ball into the box, where Junior Hoilett and Hadergjonaj collided. The latter did not appear to win the ball cleanly. “I suppose you could say justice was done in that respect,” Warnock said.
Huddersfield have scored only 13 goals this season, the fewest in the division, and again came up short in the final third. Cardiff, too, were blunt in attack, with Warnock turning to Rhys Healey, fresh from a loan spell at MK Dons, midway through the second half. Kenneth Zohore could return at Newcastle next weekend but Warnock is still desperate to bolster his front line and the club’s chairman, Mehmet Dalman, insists a deal for the Nantes striker Emiliano Sala is not dead. “It stuck out like a sore thumb that we needed something up there,” Warnock said. “I don’t think the chairman has ever worked so hard to get me players.”
Chances were few and far between and, when they did arrive, they often ended in farce, such as when Sol Bamba bounced into Sean Morrison to stop Elias Kachunga latching on to the ball with Huddersfield pouring forward, four against two on the counterattack.
But the true drama arrived late on, when Bennett and Hadergjonaj tangled inside the box. After a brief conversation with his assistant, Mason gave the hosts a free-kick, presumably for a foul on the Cardiff left-back before he upended Hadergjonaj. Wagner fumed on the touchline but Cardiff had survived. Huddersfield will do well to do the same.