Referee Filip Glova took the gloss off of Rico Lewis’ England debut on Tuesday night by awarding a controversial penalty against the Manchester City defender. Whilst jumping to head away a long ball, the full-back caught a North Macedonia star with a flailing hand, prompting VAR to intervene and call for the incident to be reviewed at the pitch-side monitor.
Lewis was a late-call up to Gareth Southgate’s squad during the international break, following a string of players being ruled out through injury prompting several chances to the originally-named team. The versatile teenager has shone under Pep Guardiola this season and his presence in the first-team was somewhat overdue, being deployed in defence and also as a holding midfielder.
The 18-year-old was then given the chance to shine on the international stage by Southgate at the Tose Proeski Arena when the Three Lions took on North Macedonia, lining up in left-back.
Lewis shone during the opening stages of the EURO qualifiers Group C clash but was unfortunately on the end of a unbelievable refereeing decision that saw North Macedonia awarded a penalty. After a long ball was launched forward, the debutant attempted to head clear a long ball forward.
The fullback successfully headed the ball out of harm’s way, but a shock VAR review alerted referee Glova to a minor piece of contact between Lewis and Bojan Miovski. The City star clipped the striker in the face with the palm of his hand whilst using his arms to push through the air and meet the ball.
After a pitch-side review, the referee pointed to the spot – with Lewis receiving a yellow card for the foul.
Speaking to Channel 4 about the incident, former City defender Joleon Lescott said: “Very harsh. Very hard done by. There’s no way he knows the forward is coming. It’s in the air and it’s the palm of his hand, not his elbow. Yes there’s contact but there’s no way that can be given as a penalty for me. I feel for him – he’s been one of the consistent performers in the first half. It’s unfortunate it went against him.”
Ex-Chelsea playmaker Joe Cole added: “It’s absurd. The ref saw it in real time and you know the guy is kidding, look at the guy rolling around on the floor. You’re going to get people running into people’s hands and elbows in the box now. The ref – we’ve found one. He wants to be the star of the show. Pickford does excellently to get his hand on it but the rebound drops and he can’t miss from there. I feel for Rico Lewis because he’s been very, very good on his England debut.”