Erling Haaland’s referee fury: What happened and why Man City should feel robbed

Erling Haaland vs Simon Hooper - Erling Haaland’s referee fury: What happened and why Man City should feel robbed
Haaland was the first to let rip at referee Simon Hooper, but was soon joined by his team-mates - Getty Images/James Gill

Erling Haaland launched a foul-mouthed tirade at referee Simon Hooper after Manchester City’s dramatic 3-3 draw against Tottenham ended in anger and controversy at the Etihad Stadium.

Haaland led a furious protest when Hooper decided to pull play back for a foul in the fifth minute of stoppage time moments after appearing to play the advantage when the City striker released Jack Grealish through on goal.

The Norwegian – incensed at Hooper seemingly reneging on his original decision and denying a goal-scoring opportunity – charged over to the referee, who was surrounded by an angry mob of City players.

Haaland appeared to scream “F--- off! F--- off!” at Hooper and was booked for his trouble before getting involved in a clash with Spurs players Giovani Lo Celso and Brennan Johnson at the final whistle when he launched another expletive-strewn rant.

City’s No 9 later took to social media to further vent his anger, posting “Wtf”, which means ‘What the f---”, on X above a video of the incident, a move that could yet land him in hot water with the Football Association.

City, who had come from behind to lead 2-1 and then 3-2 before Dejan Kulusevski plundered a 90th-minute equaliser, also risked being charged by the FA for failing to control their players given the way Hooper was confronted.

Why Haaland was so furious...

Haaland is fouled

Haaland fouled
Haaland fouled

The game has entered its fifth minute of stoppage time when, with the scoreline locked at 3-3 after Dejan Kulusevski’s late equaliser, Rodri plays a pass into Haaland. Emerson Royal, the Tottenham defender, comes sliding in and catches Haaland with a poor, lunging challenge.

‌Referee goes to stop play

Ref goes to stop play
Ref goes to stop play

The tackle results in the Manchester City striker momentarily falling to his knees and, at that moment, Simon Hooper, the referee, appears ready to blow his whistle, stop the play and award a free-kick.

‌Haaland gets up and referee signals advantage

Ref plays advantage
Ref plays advantage

Haaland has no intention of staying down and quickly jumps to his feet and turns. Hooper spots the Norwegian’s reaction and resists blowing for the foul and then raises an arm, seemingly to signal advantage being played. It looks like an excellent piece of officiating.

G‌realish released but referee blows for free-kick

Grealish is onside
Grealish is onside

Haaland’s clipped pass over the top is a beauty and releases team-mate Jack Grealish – who is clearly onside – ahead of three Spurs players, only for Hooper to inexplicably blow his whistle and call the play back, reneging on what appeared his original decision to play the advantage.

Grealish through on goal

Grealish through
Grealish through

Grealish is through on goal, even if it cannot be certain the England midfielder would not have been caught. Asked after the game if Spurs had got away with one in that instance, Ange Postecoglou, the Spurs manager, conceded: “Yeah, I guess so, mate.”

Haaland fury

Haaland fury
Haaland fury

Haaland reacts furiously, charging over to Hooper to lead the inquest as other disbelieving City players, including Ruben Dias, Mateo Kovacic and Rodri surround the beleaguered official. Haaland is a picture of pent-up rage, unable to compute the decision and bellowing in the face of Hooper. City’s No 9 is then booked after appearing to shout “F--- off! F--- off!” at the referee. Haaland eventually walks away but is seen throwing his arms around in disgust at the decision as others continue the protest. Royal is also shown a yellow card.

‌Haaland clashes with Spurs staff

Haaland shouts at Spurs staff
Haaland shouts at Spurs staff

Haaland has still not calmed down by the time the final whistle goes a few minutes later and, after the Tottenham player Giovani Lo Celso knocks into him as he leaves the pitch, City’s top scorer turns and is seen apparently screaming “F--- you! F--- you!” in his opponent’s direction. A stand-off with another Spurs player, Brennan Johnson, briefly ensues, with Postecoglou at one point trying to motion Haaland away.

Haaland later vents his anger on social media, posting the caption “Wtf” – shorthand for ‘What the f---’ – above a video of the incident on Twitter.

Guardiola: I won’t do an Arteta

Pep Guardiola warned he would not “do a Mikel Arteta” by launching into a verbal assault of the officials, as the Arsenal manager had done in the wake of his side’s 1-0 defeat against Newcastle last month.

“Next question, I will not do a Mikel Arteta comment,” he said.

But the City manager insisted Haaland’s reaction was “normal” in the heat of the moment and claimed Hooper would have been “disappointed” by the decision had he been representing the club.

Guardiola also joked that, if the rules prohibiting players from challenging the officials had been applied correctly, 10 City players – all except the captain – should have been sent off.

“It’s normal,” Guardiola said. “His [Haaland’s] reaction was the same for [the other] 10 players. The rules are you cannot talk with the referees or fourth officials so we should have had 10 players sent off today.

“He’s [Haaland] a little bit disappointed. Even the referee – if he played for Man City today he would be disappointed for that action, that’s for sure.

“It is hard when you review the image, the referee decides to blow the whistle after he has already said to play on. After the pass, the whistle, so I do not understand this action.”

Guardiola said he was “surprised” Hooper had blown his whistle having initially signalled advantage to City.

“In that action it’s football,” he said. “I make mistakes, the players make mistakes. It surprised me because in the moment Erling went down for the action from [Emerson Royal] if you whistle in that moment it’s fine.

“But when he stands up and continues and the referee in that moment makes that gesture to ‘play on, play on’ and after he [Haaland] makes the pass he then stops the game. I don’t want to criticise him.

“On the touchline sometimes I lose my mind and my gestures are not proper but here normally for many years as a manager I’m not a guy when I’m refreshed to comment. But I would say we didn’t draw for that.”

‘He made a mistake, it’s a poor call

Ange Postecoglou admitted that Spurs had perhaps been fortunate when asked if his side had “got away with one” in that instance. “Yeah, I guess so, mate,” the Tottenham manager said.

Hooper’s decision drew criticism from a number of former players. Jamie Carragher, the former Liverpool defender, claimed the referee had “panicked” while Micah Richards said the decision was hard to fathom.

“The referee had a brilliant game today until this moment,” the former City defender said. “I don’t understand. He puts the whistle to his mouth, he waves it on but stops to play advantage. Grealish is clearly through but then he stops the play, which I just don’t understand.

“The evidence is there for all to see. He didn’t blow it the first time but then Grealish is through and he blows it to stop play. He’s cost him a one-on-one chance with the keeper.”

Roy Keane, the former Manchester United captain, claimed City should have been more frustrated about Tottenham’s equaliser. “He’s made a mistake,” Keane said.

“There’s been a few out there today. It’s a poor call, he’s played advantage and give him credit for that, but then he’s stopped it and made a mistake. It’s a poor decision but City should be the critical ones who let Spurs off the hook.”

It was an out-and-out error – but that does not condone Haaland’s behaviour

I have tried to look for a reason why Simon Hooper stopped the game and could not see one. I think it was just an out-and-out error which he will be kicking himself about.

He clearly signalled for an advantage, which left Man City free to attack, then brought it back. I saw no reason for play to stop. Sometimes when a player has been fouled they stay lying on the ground, and there is always a risk of confrontation between the fouled player and the player who committed the offence. That did not appear to be the case.

We are not privy to what is in the referee’s ear. Has someone at Stockley Park shouted “offside”? Initially, I thought he might have had a bleep from the assistant, but there is no flag.

Hooper had a relatively good game. It suited his style, he likes to keep it low key and apply advantage to keep the game flowing. Could he have been fatiguing? I don’t think so. You can have a lapse in concentration towards the end of a game, but professional referees should be able to carry on for another half an hour comfortably.

It appears to be just a slight loss of confidence. It is a poor piece of officiating and at the elite level you have got to be better than that.

It was a big error but it does not condone the behaviour of Erling Haaland, which was pretty aggressive and continued as he walked off the pitch. One has to say that if a player puts his hands up to a referee, as did happen here, it is surprising when a red card is not forthcoming.

The Football Association will no doubt review that and there is a strong chance Haaland will be charged with misconduct.