By Keith Hackett

20th May, 2023 | 7:00am

Ex-Fifa official: Sunderland victims of major injustice as new footage analysed

Keith Hackett has claimed Sunderland should have been awarded a penalty in their playoff semi-final on Tuesday (16 May) after Luton Town defender Amari’i Bell deliberately handled the ball in the opening minutes of the game.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the ex-Fifa and Premier League referee claimed Bell “knew exactly what he was doing” – insisting his arm was in an “unnatural position”.

As seen in footage posted to YouTube by Sky Sports (16 May), Pierre Ekwah’s ball across the Luton goal was blocked by the hand of Hatters defender Amari’i Bell – sparking vehement protests from the Sunderland players.

Both referee Simon Hooper and the assistant referee closest to the incident declined to intervene and award a penalty.

The decision proved costly for Sunderland, who surrendered their 2-1 lead from the first leg to lose 3-2 on aggregate at Kenilworth Road.

Luton advance to the playoff final at Wembley on 29 May, where they will play one of Middlesborough and Coventry.

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Hackett told Football Insider’s Ewan Kingsbury: “I think it should have been a penalty.

“The defender knows exactly what he’s doing.

“The arm is outside the body, and he makes no attempt to withdraw it. The arm is relatively close, but in a big game like this you’ve got to get the decision right.

“For me, the Luton defender leans towards it and stops the ball. I was surprised that the referee didn’t see it that way.

“I don’t think the hand is in a natural position – it should be bent, not straight.”

In other news, Sunderland to bank £13million as crackdown revealed.