By Adefunmiloye Alani

19th Oct, 2021 | 8:30am

Richard Keys insists Antonio’s challenge on Pickford was clean

Rafa Benitez questioned the officials for failing to protect Jordan Pickford as Everton suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of West Ham at home on Sunday.

Michail Antonio appeared to foul the Toffees goalkeeper in the build-up to the corner his side scored from, and the hosts were far from pleased that Stuart Attwell ignored it.

The Blues boss remonstrated with the fourth official, insisting Pickford had been impeded and deserved to be awarded a free kick, but he was ignored.

Bein Sports journalist Richard Keys has dismissed his claim, dubbing it nonsense.

The former Sky Sports man wrote on his blog: “What’s a six-yard box for? According to Benitez, it’s a place where goalkeepers should be protected. What nonsense.

“Of course it’s not. Antonio’s challenge on Pickford was clean. The goalkeeper had the advantage being able to use his hands. You’d have been lucky to get a cigarette paper under his feet. He reminded me of (Peter) Shilton floundering and failing to get off the ground when (Diego) Maradona scored the Hand of God.

“Just like last season, Everton had made a good start, but what we saw Sunday won’t do – and I’m afraid there are going to be many more days like that under Benitez. Truth is, Everton aren’t very good – but playing the way he does – seven back – three up – won’t do – unless he gets people out of their seats.”

Arguable

Referees do not always get all the calls right, but VAR could not interfere in the matter as it was out of its jurisdiction.

Antonio was always going to make things difficult for Pickford in such a moment, and the Everton ace should have done better.

He did not cover himself in glory during the corner-kick that followed either, coming off his line and finding himself in no man’s land to allow Angelo Ogbonna grab the winner.

The lapse in concentration cost the Toffees in the end, and they have no excuse for losing.

The Toffees struggled at the other end, with Alex Iwobi and Rondon missing chances the likes of Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin would have probably buried.

They were beaten fair and square by the better team and will have to do better when they host Watford at the weekend.

Having their key attackers back could go a long way in helping them return to winning ways.

In other Everton news, Benitez has admitted he finds it hard to understand Toffees man sometimes.

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