Michail Antonio appeared to be mocking Paul Pogba’s handball during West Ham’s 1-1 draw with Manchester United on Wednesday night – while the midfielder was watching him.
Pogba was heavily criticised for conceding a penalty that gave West Ham the lead at Old Trafford, with the 2018 World Cup winner found to have handled the ball in blocking it from hitting his face while standing in the penalty area.
Having blocked Declan Rice’ long-range free-kick effort, Pogba appeared to grab his face as he fell to the ground, gesturing that he had been struck in the face by Rice’s effort.
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“Not sure what the referee has given, it hits him flush in the face doesn’t it?” said co-commentator Gary Neville. But a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) review revealed that Pogba had managed to raise his arms to block the ball from striking his face, resulting in a penalty being awarded against the home side.
“He’s got his arms up. He’s in trouble, he is in big trouble Paul Pogba,” Neville said. “He has given a penalty away then pretended it has hit his head.
“It is rubbish from him, rubbish. To think I felt a little bit sorry for him, I thought he had taken a whack in the head. Embarrassing.
“I don’t know why VAR are looking at it that long to be honest with you, it is a penalty. Is he trying to make out he has a bloody nose? It is a no-brainer, it is a penalty.”
The penalty was converted by Antonio on the stroke of half-time, giving West Ham the lead over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, and as the two sides returned for the start of the second half, the forward was seen discussing the incident with United midfielder Bruno Fernandes.
Having made a gesture that appeared to mimic Pogba’s actions, Antonio is seen to be laughing with Fernandes, only for Pogba to be seen by television cameras to be watching on in the background – with a decidedly unimpressed look on his face.
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Pogba later apologised to his United teammates for giving away the penalty, though Mason Greenwood spared his blushes by netting the equaliser soon after the second-half restart that maintained United’s advantage in the race to qualify for the Champions League.
“Paul held his hands up knowing he should have taken it in the mush,” said his manager Solskjaer.
“But it came flying at him at 100 miles an hour. It was a natural reaction.”
United sit third in the Premier League table with just one game remaining, having overtaken Chelsea on goal difference after the Blues suffered a 5-3 defeat at Liverpool on Wednesday night. Leicester City are the only club who can prevent them from qualifying for next season’s Champions League, with the Foxes just a point behind in fifth position and hosting United on the final day of the season this Sunday.
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