England capitalizes after UEFA orders match to be restarted over referee error
Five days after the final whistle blew, two international teams returned to the stadium to play the final moments of their match again on Thursday — starting with the penalty that created history.
Due to a referee’s mistake surrounding a penalty in the original game on Saturday, the England and Norway under-19 women’s teams were ordered to again play out the final moments in a near empty stadium in Northern Ireland.
England’s Leah Williamson sent the spot-kick into the bottom left of the net to level their European Championship qualifier at 2-2.
The England players briefly celebrated before the game restarted and the final whistle was blown just 24 seconds later. The result meant both teams qualified for the under-19 tournament later this year in Israel.
"We had a job to do, we did the job and we took our opportunity that I would never have dreamed to be gifted," said Williamson, who plays for Arsenal Ladies.
It was an unprecedented move by European soccer’s governing body UEFA that led to the bizarre replayed minute of action at Seaview Stadium in Belfast.
England had scored its penalty in the stadium on Saturday but it was disallowed when an England player encroached into the area. German referee Marija Kurtes should have ordered the kick to be retaken but instead wrongly awarded a free kick to Norway, and England lost 2-1.
The English Football Association protested, and was surprised by UEFA’s response: replay the final moments again from the spot-kick.
UEFA regulations uphold protests in cases of "an obvious violation of a rule by the referee that had a decisive influence on the final result of the match."
UEFA’s decision to order a match to be partially replayed in such a manner for the first time meant the final moments of a usually low-profile game were broadcast live on British television.
Before the unprecedented partial replay, Norway and England had to play their final group matches earlier Thursday. England beat Switzerland 3-1, with Williamson scoring a penalty, and Norway defeated Northern Ireland 8-1.
Both teams therefore knew a penalty convertion, and a draw, would be enough to take both to the championship finals. England finished ahead of Norway on goal difference.
"I can only applaud them the way they have conducted themselves, some of them are only 17 to 18 years of age," England coach Mo Marley said of her players. "The way they have handled it has been magnificent and it is a credit to how they are as a team and, as a staff, we are just really proud of them."
In 2005, FIFA ordered the men’s teams from Uzbekistan and Bahrain to replay a 2006 World Cup qualifier due to a referee’s critical error. But that match had to be played again from the beginning, not picking up from the time of the mistake.