Kevin Friend was at the centre of controversy this afternoon when he awarded Arsenal a tenth minute penalty.
The returning Mesut Ozil picked out Alexis Sanchez with a cross and he was bundled over by Nordin Amrabat. Despite Watford waving away’s Sanchez’s protestations, Kevin Friend eventually pointed to the spot after some deliberation. Santi Cazorla stepped up confidently to send Heurelho Gomes the wrong way and hand Arsenal the lead.
“Amrabat is making a challenge he shouldn’t be making,” said Derek Payne. “The ref is getting a lot of stick here.”
Jon Marks felt, with the benefit of a replay, Friend got it right. “It was a lean by Amrabat. You get those from time to time but it was a foul. He wasn’t anywhere near the ball. The referee gave himself a couple of seconds to think about it, which he didn’t need to do. That’s what’s caused the dissatisfaction [with the supporters].”
Payne felt the reaction of Sanchez didn’t help. “It’s the way he goes down,” he said.
Friend has been involving in controversy with Watford before, sending off John Eustace in the first leg of the play-off semi-final against Hull in 2008 and, more recently, giving Marco Motta his marching orders when Watford drew with Derby the season before last.