Northern Echo

MIDDLESBROUGH were left furious at two hugely controversial refereeing decisions as their play-off hopes suffered a major blow with a 2-1 defeat at Swansea City.

Andre Ayew's injury-time penalty condemned Boro to defeat at the Liberty Stadium, but it was referee Gavin Ward who was the key figure in proceedings.

Ayew had put Swansea ahead in the first half when scoring for the third consecutive game, before Sam Morsy levelled in the first minute of injury time.

But Jake Bidwell then tumbled under George Saville’s challenge in the penalty area and, although referee Gavin Ward at first pointed for a corner, a spot-kick was awarded and Ayew coolly stroked home.

The decision left Boro boss Neil Warnock fuming and the veteran manager was booked for his protests, which were intensified as a result of an earlier incident that saw Ward disallow a goal from Marc Bola because of what he deemed to be a foul from Yannick Bolasie in the build-up to Bola's strike. Replays show that Bolasie won the ball rather than conceding a foul.

Middlesbrough will feel they deserved much more than they got after pushing Swansea back and dominating possession and territory for long periods.

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As if the shocking decision to disallow a perfectly good Marc Bola equaliser at the start of the second half at Swansea didn't infuriate Warnock enough, Ward then awarded the hosts a 95th minute penalty for a foul on Jake Bidwell despite initially pointing for a corner. After the longest of pauses - and perhaps a word in his ear from the linesman - he changed his mind.

It looked momentarily as though Sam Morsy had snatched a deserved point for Boro just two minutes earlier when he struck the side's third late goal in the last eight days.

But in the cruellest late twist, Andre Ayew stepped up from the spot to slot home the winner and put a knife to the heart of Boro's play-off hopes.

They deserved so much more here. For 40 minutes, they superbly contained Swansea only to gift the hosts an opener after a defensive mix-up in the box. But they responded in style and took the game to Steve Cooper's side in the second half, striking a stunning leveller which was inexplicably ruled out.

If you haven't seen it, Yannick Bolasie and Swansea defender Jay Fulton stretched for the same ball in the Swansea box. Bolasie got there first and poked it towards Bola, who did the rest. Somehow, a foul was spotted that didn't exist.

Referees are human and make mistakes but at this level errors like that are unacceptable.

At the top end of the Championship, sides are competing for the riches of the Premier League and all that comes with it - and yet decisions such as this and the kick to the face of Dael Fry against Blackburn decide games and ultimately seasons.

Highlights from Boro's 2-1 defeat at Swansea City

Sunday Mirror

...Marc Bola had equalised but Yannick Bolasie was adjudged to have fouled Jay Fulton in the build-up, the first contentious decision.

Sam Morsy did level the scores in the 91st minute for Warnock's side but there was further drama to come.

George Saville appeared to win the ball when sliding in on Jake Bidwell but referee Ward pointed to the spot with seconds left on the clock.

Ayew scored the resulting penalty in the 97th minute to take home all three points.

The Sunday Times

...Andre Ayew’s injury-time penalty — which gave Swansea City a dramatic victory — would have tried the patience of a saint.

The Middlesbrough manager spoke before the game about his “embarrassment” at the controversial penalty Ayew had scored in added time away to Stoke City in midweek, so when history repeated itself, fate had already been tempted.

Gavin Ward, the referee, first indicated a corner when Jake Bidwell fell under a challenge by George Saville seven minutes into added time.

He then changed his mind and pointed to the spot, enabling Ayew to score his second goal and send Warnock — who simmered with resentment throughout — into an apoplectic rage. Not least as Middlesbrough had already had a goal ruled out for a similar challenge when replays suggested the referee had got the decision horribly wrong, despite a clear view of the incident.

That was early in the second half, and Middlesbrough did deservedly draw level in the first minute of stoppage time, when Sam Morsy cancelled out Ayew’s opener.

But Swansea have made a speciality of late goals and their winner lifted them up to third place in the Championship, only a point behind Watford, but with two games in hand.