Frank Lampard claimed a refereeing mistake cost Everton the chance to end the threat of relegation hanging over them as they twice blew a lead and finished with nine men in a 3-2 home defeat to Brentford.
Knowing a win would have made them safe after Leeds could only draw with Brighton, Everton responded to a wall of noise inside Goodison Park to take a 10th-minute lead through Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s first goal since August.
But the game turned eight minutes later. Richarlison appealed for a penalty, claiming his shirt was pulled by Kristoffer Ajer, but Michael Oliver waved play on, Brentford went long, and Ivan Toney got goal side of Jarrad Branthwaite and forced the 19-year-old into a challenge which brought a red card.
“When you see that shirt pull, that’s a foul anywhere on the pitch,” said Lampard, who was mystified as to why VAR did not intervene.
“This ‘clear and obvious’ phrase, I don’t know if it still counts but I think it’s a nonsense. The decision is either right or wrong. And if a referee can’t see it clear and they get the benefit of someone else… it’s right or wrong. Is a shirt pull a foul? Yes. Is it in the box? Yes. It’s a penalty.”
Lampard is still facing an FA hearing over comments made after the Merseyside derby ended in a 2-0 defeat at Anfield last month, but said his frustration was not with individuals but the protocols they are asked to follow.
“The reality is we’re on the wrong end of a lot of bad decisions this season,” he said.
“That’s hard. I have to represent the club, represent the fans that come here, and those small margins can affect our position and I do believe that penalty on the shirt pull means maybe 2-0 and 11 men and I think we all know how that game goes.”
At 1-0 and with 10 men, the game would ultimately get away from the Toffees. Not immediately – though Brentford levelled when Seamus Coleman inadvertently turned in Yoane Wissa’s cross eight minutes before the break, Richarlison won and scored a penalty in first-half stoppage time.
It was in the second half it unravelled, with Brentford scoring twice in three minutes just after the hour through Wissa and Rico Henry, before Everton’s misery was compounded by a late red for Salomon Rondon for a poor challenge on Henry.
The defeat leaves Everton two points above the bottom three, and with games against Crystal Palace at home and Arsenal away in which to save themselves, but Lampard said there was no need to overreact to this loss.
“Seventy minutes in the Premier League with one man down is a really big ask,” he said. “Brentford are a quality team and can move the ball so the effort from the players was amazing.
“It’s a hard one to react to quickly. It’s one for a day off tomorrow. Their effort was massive and we need more massive effort on Thursday.”
The win leaves Brentford 11th, and able to target a top-half finish when they get another chance to have a say in the relegation scrap at home to Leeds next weekend.
“To go behind, come back, go behind and come back again shows a team fighting and giving everything,” Thomas Frank said.
“It was an incredible performance that says a lot about the character of these players.
“The so-called experts say we have gone on holiday, that we have nothing to fight for, but we want to win every game we play for the Brentford fans and because we respect the league.
“We will put our best team out next Sunday and it’s so important to understand we need to do our best to win.”