Gracia: “It Wasn't A Foul”
Watch Javi Gracia's post-match interview above, or read on below for his thoughts from his press conference.
Javi Gracia was animated as he had been in any press conference this season when asked for his opinion on the gut-wrenching red card shown to José Holebas.
The left-back was sent off in the 48th minute by referee Chris Kavanagh on the say-so of assistant referee Dan Cook after a hand on the shoulder of Michail Antonio sent the West Ham United forward crashing to the ground.
Holebas couldn't believe he had been shown a straight red and he knew straight away it would rule him out of the cup final, the biggest game of his career. The Head Coach initially refused to be drawn into criticising the official but he then launched into a passionate defence of his Greek defender.
“I kept the same attitude I've had all season,” he said. “I don't want to change with the last one. I prefer to be respectful. I think in this moment I don't want to say what I am thinking about that, but I only say I can't believe a player will miss the final for that play. For that contact, I can't believe it. Maybe it was a light foul, maybe a soft foul but I can't agree with that [decision].”
Gracia was so sure about what he saw, so clear it was the wrong call that he refused to even discuss that Holebas will miss the final. An appeal will be lodged.
“It wasn't a foul,” he said. “It wasn't a foul. There was a lot of fouls in the game. It was same with the action with Torreira [against Arsenal]. In the next games there were similar actions and it wasn't even a yellow card. It wasn't a yellow card and for sure it wasn't a red. After two days, they say it is possible it [other sendings off] were a mistake, but I don't want that.”
As well as the loss of Holebas, Gracia had to stomach slipping from 11th to tenth and finishing in the bottom half of the table, which doesn't really reflect how well his side have played for most of the season.
“In my opinion, it not so important to finish 11th, 10th or ninth,” he said. “Obviously we prefer to finish as high as possible, but we have to know how we can improve our play to compete better in the next game, the final. In the last games we didn't keep the same level as before. I would like to see the best face of my team. I am sure my players know how important that game is. I have no doubt they will give their best. We are angry and sad but tomorrow we'll start to recover. I'm sure all of them will be ready.”