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Ref admits Man Utd penalty was a mistake

Referee Howard Webb has admitted that the penalty which sparked Manchester United's five-goal comeback in their Premier League match against Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on Saturday was a mistake.

With Tottenham leading 2-0 after 57 minutes and United needing a win to reclaim top spot in the league from title rivals Liverpool, Sir Alex Ferguson's men were awarded a penalty after Webb ruled that Spurs goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes had fouled Michael Carrick.

Television replays showed that the keeper managed to palm the ball away to safety before colliding with the midfielder.

Cristiano Ronaldo converted the penalty which proved to be the catalyst for United who went on to overwhelm Spurs - scoring five goals in 22 minutes - in scintillating display which sealed a 5-2 win and a return to pole position in the Premier League.

''I've looked at it again and I think it was a mistake,'' Webb told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. ''But we make these decisions honestly. It's not always easy to see the way the play pans out from pitch level.''

The referee who was selected as England's representative to referee in last summer's Euro 2008 championships added: ''I could see the Manchester United player touch the ball and saw him get clattered by the goalkeeper but didn't see the extra deviation from the goalkeeper's fingers touching the ball.

''I'm disappointed as I always strive for perfection. I'll look at the tape in detail later in the week and try to avoid it happening again in the future.

''I never want to have a negative impact on a game and I get no pleasure from not reaching the high standards we set ourselves.''

After the game, Spurs midfielder Jermaine Jenas criticised Webb's decision saying the referee ''crumbled under pressure.''

The Football Association have given Jenas seven days to explain his remarks, failure to do satisfactorily could see him hit with a disciplinary charge.

Jenas said: ''The atmosphere, the occasion, the importance of the match; a lot of factors take their toll when making decisions. One thing which struck me was that he didn't even think. It was like he'd already made his mind up when he came out for the second half that he was going to give something.

It is doubtful that Webb's acceptance that he made an error will have any bearing on Jenas's case.

Webb will get the chance to re-establish his credentials as England's best referee on Sunday when he takes charge of the highly-pressurised game between Reading and Birmingham City.

The match is crucial for both sides as it comes on the last day of the Championship season and could earn the winner automatic promotion to the Premier League.

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