Keith Hackett has slammed Craig Pawson for taking the “easy option” by awarding Fulham a penalty in their 1-1 draw with Arsenal.
Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the ex-FIFA and Premier League referee insisted Pawson should have stuck with his original decision rather than letting his assistant overrule him.
Arsenal defender Gabriel and Fulham midfielder Mario Lemina both went for a loose ball in the Gunners box just before the hour mark.
Pawson did not adjudge the incident to be a foul until his assistant flagged for a penalty.
Josh Maja duly converted from the spot to give the visitors the opening goal at the Emirates.
Asked for his assessment of the incident, Hackett told Football Insider Connor Whitley: “I think the referee’s in a good position and he’s actually seen it’s not a foul so he’s not awarded a penalty kick.
“It’s not a penalty. The referee’s got it right at first sight so it’s not a clear and obvious error, but the assistant referee has flagged for a penalty kick. I don’t honestly see that as a penalty kick.
“The assistant referee flagged and he went with the assistant referee.
“Pawson got that right when he didn’t give it. He’s taken the easy option by staying with his assistant.
“He should have said ‘No, I don’t think it’s a penalty kick.’ Referees have got to referee and not look for a comfort blanket which VAR is fast becoming.”
VAR checked for offside in the build-up to the incident and briefly checked the actual foul but did not overturn the penalty decision.
Fulham held on to their 1-0 lead until the dying stages when Eddie Nketiah grabbed Arsenal an equaliser.