Fulham fans were left furious when Aleksandar Mitrovic was sent off against Manchester United, highlighting that Bruno Fernandes escaped punishment for a similar incident when the Red Devils played Liverpool weeks ago.
But ex-referee Dermot Gallagher has said that the two incidents were very different.
The Cottagers travelled to Old Trafford for the FA Cup quarter-final tie, and impressively took the lead against their northern opponents when Mitrovic scored in the second-half.
But in the space of five minutes, the game was turned on its head – Willian was sent off for a handball on the line before Mitrovic went from hero to villain when he was also shown a red card by referee Chris Kavanagh for pushing the match official.
That left Fulham fans livid, and comparisons have since been made to when Bruno Fernandes pushed a the linesman when United lost 7-0 at Anfield.
But Gallagher believes that there is no comparison to make and that Mitrovic deserved his punishment.
Mitrovic sending off justified – but why wasn’t Fernandes?
The call to send Mitrovic off has been the main talking point from the game, but many fans and pundits believe the referee was within his rights to send the Serbian off.
Former England striker Chris Sutton was one of those and believes that the Fulham striker should receive a significant punishment.
“You do not lay your hands on an official,” Sutton said via BBC 5 Live. “In my opinion, the player should get a 10-match ban.”
Chris Sutton believes Aleksandar Mitrovic should receive a 10-game ban 🗣️ pic.twitter.com/SAgT8nKZf9
— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) March 20, 2023
But the main argument has been why Mitrovic was sent off for his push on the referee, while Bruno Fernandes escaped despite being involved in a similar incident.
Losing by five goals in the 80th minute and clearly frustrated at Anfield, Fernandes pushed the linesman while trying to get the ball back.
“Bruno gets nothing for pushing a linesman but Mitrovic gets a straight red for bumping the ref, inconsistent VAR Embarrassing,” former Tottenham striker and talkSPORT pundit Darren Bent said on Twitter.
Bruno gets nothing for pushing a linesman but mitrovic gets a straight red for bumping the ref , inconsistent VAR Embarrassing
— Darren Bent (@DarrenBent) March 19, 2023
People saying if Mitrovic was red then Bruno should have got red as well. 🤣
Mitrovic was definitely more aggressive. pic.twitter.com/waFbOhoxRa
— Paul, Manc Bald and Bred (@MufcWonItAll) March 19, 2023
Dermot Gallagher says Fernandes and Mitrovic incidents were very different
But on Monday morning ex-referee Dermot Gallagher weighed in with his own view, saying he does not condone Fernandes’ actions, but that it was a yellow card at most.
“I said at the time I don’t condone what Fernandes did,” said Gallagher. “I don’t think it’s wise to touch a match official.
“I don’t think that’s violent and I don’t think that’s aggressive, I think that’s petulant and he could have easily got a yellow card for that and I think people would have accepted that.
“I still don’t think it’s a red card offence, but I do think yesterday’s is.”
Gallagher disagreed when asked if Fernandes set a precedent moving forward by escaping punishment, but added that the two incidents were very different.
“I think they’re two totally divorced situations in how the player is towards an official,” he said.
“Neither player should have done what they did, but I think one player has gone far too far.”
Watch: Dermot Gallagher explains the difference between Fernandes and Mitrovic incidents
Aleksandar Mitrović 🆚 Bruno Fernandes
Dermot Gallagher discusses the difference between Aleksandar Mitrović touching Chris Kavanagh and Bruno Fernandes touching the linesman against Liverpool. 🤔 pic.twitter.com/Zmq0hYie3t
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) March 20, 2023
What next for Mitrovic, Fulham, and United?
Fulham will be without their frontman for at least three games following his straight red card, but Gallagher went on to say that the FA could decide to increase that ban after reviewing the footage.
Red card suspensions do carry over from other competitions, so that means Mitrovic will miss Fulham’s next three games at the very least.
Those matches against relegation-threatened Bournemouth, West Ham and Everton are vital for Fulham as they continue to push up the table, and Mitrovic’s absence could come back to bite them.
Meanwhile, United will resume their Premier League campaign on April 2nd when they travel north to face Newcastle United, with both teams pushing for a spot in the Champions League next season.