Phil Neville blasted the performance of referee Robert Sibiga during Inter Miami’s 1-0 defeat at the Portland Timbers.
An 83rd-minute strike from Polish forward Jaroslaw Niezgoda was enough to separate the two sides at Providence Park on Sunday, consigning the Herons to a fourth consecutive defeat.
Miami thought they had levelled the game just three minutes later when Julian Carranza headed home a Blaise Matuidi cross, but Sibiga ruled the goal out for what appeared to be a slight push on Timbers centre-back Dario Zuparic.
On the sidelines, Neville could be seen remonstrating with the fourth official and kicking the bench. After the match, he pulled no punches with his assessment of the decision.
“Let’s cut to the chase, we got robbed,” Neville told reporters (via the Miami Herald).
“I try to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I’m not sure what these referees are doing. Clearly a goal by Julian Carranza. I accepted the decision on Wednesday night (handball on Leandro Gonzalez Pirez that led to Atlanta’s winning penalty), even though it could have gone the other way.
“I’m not accepting that today because of the efforts of the team, because this is a professional league and we’ve got officials making such poor decisions like that.”
Neville didn’t stop there, accusing Sibiga of ‘robbing’ Miami while claiming this wasn’t a one-off incident.
“I’ve got to stand up and fight for my team and my football club,” he added. “We were robbed of points tonight because of a poor refereeing decision that isn’t just a one-off. I’m seeing it time and time again.
“I’m frustrated, a little bit emotional. I’ve seen it three or four times, maybe five or six, and not once did I think it was a foul. We spend millions of pounds on VAR to check decisions like that I don’t know what they’re thinking. My thoughts on the game are totally clouded by what was probably the worst decision we’ve had this season, and we’ve had some bad ones.”
Sunday’s defeat leaves Inter Miami 11th in the Eastern Conference, eight points adrift of CF Montreal in the final playoff spot, though they do have a game in hand.
With the post-season looking more and more out of reach with each passing defeat, Neville admitted his side will need to win at least five of their last seven games to stand any chance of making the playoffs.
“The gap is becoming big, the clock is ticking, and you can’t beat the clock,” Neville said. “We’re probably going to have to win five or six of our last seven games. We’ve done that. We’ve been on a run like that and that’s the kind of run we need to go on.”
Aside from the officiating, Neville criticised his forwards for a lack of goals. Miami have failed to score more than once in their last eight games, netting just four times during that run. Top scorer Gonzalo Higuain has found the net just twice in his last 10 MLS appearances.
“Our performance levels have been really good, but at the end of the day, it’s about scoring goals. We need to score more goals,” Neville said, adding: “We lacked that finishing ruthlessness in terms of the final third where we need our big players to stand up and start scoring goals, that’s what they’re paid to do, so there are no excuses. We got punished for one mistake.”
Up next for Miami are key clashes against fellow playoff outsiders New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew, before winable games against the East’s bottom two sides, Toronto FC and FC Cincinnati.