San Jose Earthquakes’ lead against Atlanta United changed from 4-1 to 3-2 based on a VAR decision and they went on to lose 4-3, but interim head coach Steve Ralston admitted the right call was made.
In an incredible sequence of events, Chris Wondolowski scored in the 67th minute to seemingly extend the Quakes’ advantage in their first match under Ralston, who had just one day to prepare the team following the dismissal of Mikael Stahre.
However, the goal was chalked off and a penalty was awarded at the other end after referee Fotis Bazakos reviewed video footage at the sideline and deemed Magnus Eriksson handled the ball inside his own box in the build-up.
Josef Martinez converted the spot-kick and he grabbed a second in the 95th minute after Miguel Almiron’s strike to complete a dramatic turnaround for Atlanta.
Ralston said: “It’s a tough one because you’re up 4-1 for a moment, then it’s 3-2 and a totally different game. The turning point of the game.
“I think it was the right call, I think it was a handball. I’m proud of the group and I feel really bad for them because they gave everything tonight and to not at least get a point out of this game, I feel really bad for them.”
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) September 20, 2018
Atlanta boss Gerardo Martino was surprised the handball was initially missed and felt that was the root cause of the controversy.
“For us, we thought it was a handball in real time,” said Martino.
“We could see from the bench that it was a clear handball when Tito [Hector Villalba] crossed the ball so if the referee calls it the first time then they don’t have the opportunity to go down and score.”
Atlanta remain top of the Eastern Conference in MLS, four points clear of New York Red Bulls, while the Quakes are bottom in the West and out of playoff contention.
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