When 1-0 up in the second half Saints had a goal chalked out for offside by the officials, led by referee Simon Hooper, as Austin’s shot was deflected and found the back of the net.
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However, after a minute or so of confusion the goal was disallowed as Saints’ Maya Yoshida, in an offside position, was adjudged to have interfered with play. Yoshida didn’t attempt to go towards the ball and none of Watford’s players remonstrated with the officials as Yoshida wasn’t close to the ball. The Japanese defender said afterwards that “the referee realized they got it wrong. I heard that he said that.”
Speaking to the TV cameras after the game about the decision, a furious Austin didn’t mince his words.
“It’s ridiculous, they shouldn’t be in the game. We scored a perfectly good goal that was ruled out for offside. The officials cost us two points,” Austin said. “They said it was offside, that is a joke. People go on about VAR, they clearly need help. If this is the best, most-watched league in the world then give them all the help they need. It is a joke. Sure there are many positives, we worked hard, we deserved three points and we would have got that had we not been let down by the official. We feel like we have been let down. We started well, worked hard to be up 1-0 at half-time and we stuck to the plan. We didn’t get beat but we should have gotten away with three points going into the international break. The performance was there, we can take that away and we should manage the game. I’m angry is what it is, we should have won 2-0.”
It is safe to say that Austin could potentially be banned and fined for airing his strong views about the officials. But was he incorrect to call out the incorrect decisions? You can hardly disagree with his facts but the manner of his complaints may see him in trouble.
His manager, Mark Hughes, agreed totally with Austin and had a few more minutes to compose himself before hammering the officials further.
“It is not good enough, the performance of the referee,” Hughes told BBC Sports. “All we want in a game is the key match-defining moments to be correct. It is a skill, a talent and a referee has to have that or they won’t be at this level. The ref today is a little inexperienced. At 2-0 the game is over. It is unfortunate and a bad mistake. He admitted it on the pitch. I mean for goodness sake, he needed a bit of help. These decisions affect what we are trying to do here. People will say they should have had a penalty, it doesn’t matter. Our keeper could’ve saved it. Our goal went in and was ruled out. At 2-0 we could manage the game out, the momentum when the goal was chalked off went to them.”
Hooper was officiating his fourth game in the PL all-time and just his second this season and it appears his assistant referee was the one who called him over after Austin’s goal.
Saints are struggling just outside of the relegation zone with one win in their 12 games so far this season as they’ve now gone eight matches without victory and they’ve won just once in the last 12 months at home.
But they were two poor decisions and Southampton can rightly feel that if they had gone 2-0 up with 25 minutes to go, the game would be done and dusted.
The frustration from Austin and Hughes caps a tough week for Southampton as a whole, as Vice Chairman Les Reed was fired and so too was Technical Director Martin Hunter as Saints continue to struggle after near relegation last season.
Hughes and his players put in a solid display against Watford but they’ve now drawn five (the most draws of any club in the PL) of their 12 games this season and look destined for another relegation scrap.