Farke fumes over offside call for Leeds as Norwich draw leaves tie in balance

<span>Leeds United’s midfielder Junior Firpo has a strike disallowed.</span><span>Photograph: Malcolm Bryce/ProSports/REX/Shutterstock</span>
Leeds United’s midfielder Junior Firpo has a strike disallowed.Photograph: Malcolm Bryce/ProSports/REX/Shutterstock

After the phoney war of a goalless Championship playoff semi-final first leg came the phoney war of ­attempting to dismiss a goalless Championship playoff semi-final first leg.

David Wagner insisted he is ­“absolutely fine” with his Norwich side squandering the opportunity to gain the ascendancy on home soil. His counterpart, Daniel Farke, declared himself “happy with the ­performance and result” despite Leeds failing to defeat opponents who had ­struggled to secure their spot in these knockout games.

Related: West Brom v Southampton: Championship playoff semi-final, first leg – live

So much is to be expected when neither team has managed to eke out an advantage in a tie with such high stakes. But first, the controversy; at least in the eyes of a fired-up Farke.

In a game desperately short on chances – only three were on target in the entire match – Leeds did have the ball in Norwich’s net late in the first half courtesy of a Junior Firpo tap-in, only for Georginio Rutter to be ruled offside in the buildup.

It was the kind of marginal call that required the benefit of slow-motion replays to determine. But with no VAR in the Championship – at least, until the playoff final at Wembley later this month – the assistant referee rolled the dice in raising his flag. Television replays suggested he might have been correct by the slimmest of margins. Farke was far from convinced.

“Someone told me that Sky showed a picture where there’s proof it was offside,” said the Leeds manager. “It’s not offside.

“We also have the rule that if you are in doubt you go in favour of the offensive team. It feels like this is not in place any more. I’m annoyed by this. We’re playing at the top level and small details make a difference. If you score it changes the whole picture. Everyone speaks about Wembley as a £100m game and at this level all these decisions have to be spot on.

“It’s also important that the official isn’t perhaps scared that the whole stadium is moaning if they don’t give offside, so if in doubt they give it in favour of the home team. No, if you’re in doubt you give it in favour to the attacker. It’s definitely not offside if you have a look.

“I expect myself to be spot on with my decisions and my players as well. Sorry, if you want to be in charge of such a game, you have to do the same. I’m still very annoyed.”

In truth it was a lone flicker of contention in a competitive, largely industrious game.

For all the positivity generated by Norwich rising from 17th in the table last November, questions have habitually been raised over Wagner’s tentative approach when taking on a fellow Premier League-chasing club.

To the pleasant surprise of the majority who descended on a sun-drenched Carrow Road, he selected the most attacking team at his ­disposal and was rewarded with no shortage of intent from a side who finished 17 points behind their opponents. That deficit is greater than any overcome since four-team playoffs were introduced to the Championship.

The match was largely played to the home side’s tune, albeit their bluster never looked likely to yield much reward.

Sam Byram denied Borja Sainz with an excellent last-ditch sliding tackle and Gabriel Sara dragged an effort wide soon after. The substitute Christian Fassnacht also spurned an opening when he failed to control a cross Josh Sargent had flicked on.

Sargent limped off late on, but Wagner suggested he is hopeful the American forward will be fit for Thursday’s second leg. And so, to the mind games.

“I’m in a very positive mood,” said Wagner. “A very positive mindset after this result. All cards are still on the table and on Thursday we will go again. It does not automatically have to be an advantage to play the ­second leg at home where ­expectation is great and pressure is big. Yes, I would love to win the game. But I’ve seen enough that I can go with belief and ­confidence for the second leg.”

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Farke, notwithstanding his ire at the officials, was equally buoyant as he looks to end Leeds’s Football League playoff hoodoo that has not yielded a single promotion in five attempts.

“It is a good and solid result,” he said. “The last games in the regular season were not that great in terms of results and we conceded a few too many goals, especially in away games, so I wanted to be rock solid today. A really good effort from my lads.”