Neil Warnock described Premier League officials as the “worst in the world” after his Cardiff City side’s controversial loss to Chelsea.
Cesar Azpilicueta was clearly offside when he headed in Chelsea’s 84th-minute equaliser in their dramatic 2-1 win.
Warnock also felt several other decisions went against Cardiff, who remain in the relegation zone.
“The biggest and best league in the world but probably the worst officials at the minute,” he said.
Cardiff owner Vincent Tan said he “fully supported” Warnock’s comments and called for video assistant referees (VAR) to be implemented as soon as possible.
“The goal was clearly offside. We should have had two penalties and a red card for them,” said Tan.
“I believe VAR needs to be implemented so that human errors can be avoided and aggrieved parties won’t be fined for their rightful rant and unhappiness which is costly to a club like Cardiff fighting relegation.”
Warnock said: “What can I say about my lads? They were brilliant and it made for a great game. It kicks you in the teeth. We’ve had enough of them this year.
“I am deflated because we have worked hard for this game and felt we could win it.
“Against the big teams, you have to have VAR because you don’t get the big decisions. The equalising goal is the winning goal really, and if you can’t see across the line and see offside I don’t know why we are in the game.”
Cardiff seemed to be on course for their most notable victory of the season until Chelsea – who had been distinctly unimpressive – equalised through Azpilicueta.
Marcos Alonso flicked on a cross and, although his fellow Spaniard was at least a yard offside, assistant referee Eddie Smart kept his flag down and the goal stood.
Warnock was also unhappy that Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger was not sent off after bringing down Kenneth Zohore as the Cardiff striker bore down on goal three minutes after the equaliser. Instead, referee Craig Pawson showed the German defender a yellow card.
In injury time, Ruben Loftus-Cheek headed in from Willian’s cross to complete a comeback that boosted Chelsea’s top four hopes but left Cardiff five points from safety with just seven games to play and a trip to face Manchester City next.
Pawson had earlier rejected two penalty appeals from Cardiff, whose captain Sean Morrison had his shirt pulled by opposition defenders either side of half-time.
Warnock was visibly furious with those calls, though he was most angry with Smart’s decision not to raise his flag for Azpilicueta’s equaliser.
The 70-year-old Cardiff manager walked on to the pitch after the final whistle and approached the officials but said nothing, merely staring at them as they left the field.
“At that stage people might be happy to see you say something and get fined but what can you say? I wanted to get my lads away because I didn’t want to get anyone punished,” Warnock explained.
“Burnley and Southampton [Cardiff’s relegation rivals] fans will be rubbing their hands in glee. It hurts.
“The referee had a decent game but we didn’t get the major decisions. The linesman, though… it is so disappointing. Chelsea know they have got away with murder today.”
Warnock appeared to remonstrate with Chelsea manager at Maurizio Sarri at one point but the Cardiff boss said the exchange was amenable.
“He’s lovely. He was moaning about a throw-in or something,” Warnock added.
“I said: ‘Do you not know he’s two yards offside! You should be patting him on the back, not complaining about a throw-in.’
“He didn’t realise he [Azpilicueta] was offside, he said.
“The game is passion. I’m 70 bloody years old. If you’re not passionate at my age when you see such an injustice, when you’ve seen the lads battle and fight like they have.
“Do you expect a meek and mild ‘congratulations Sarri’, patting him on the back and shaking the referee and linesmen’s hands? Come on, it’s the Premier League, it’s the best league in the world and we are disappointed.”
‘They need to be aware of the magnitude of the decisions’
Brighton are five points above the relegation zone and one of the sides who benefited from Chelsea’s comeback, but their striker Glenn Murray says that officials are “affecting livelihoods” with their mistakes.
He told Sportsworld on BBC World Service: “I watched the closing moments of the match and I think Cardiff were really unlucky and the referee made the wrong decision with the first goal.
“It happened to us on a number of occasions this year and it is really difficult to take and I think the officials need to be aware of the magnitude of the decisions that they are making because at the end of the day it is people’s livelihoods.
“I am not just talking about the players, I mean everyone involved with the clubs that are in precarious positions, it can affect all levels of the club.
“The introduction of VAR can’t come soon enough.”