WALES fans were left raging after Janis Ikaunieks escaped a “definite red” after a disgusting challenge on Jordan James – even after a VAR check.
The Welsh secured a 2-0 win in Latvia in their crunch Euro 2024 qualifier thanks to Aaron Ramsey’s first half penalty and a late David Brooks strike.
Aaron Ramsey helped fire Wales to a crucial win in LatviaCredit: AP
Welsh players were fuming over a challenge on Jordan JamesCredit: Reuters
The referee deemed it only worthy of a yellow card despite a VAR checkCredit: AP
The main talking point came midway through the second period when the 19-year-old Birmingham City midfielder knocked the ball past his Latvian rival just inside his own half.
But despite him having no chance of winning possession, Ikaunieks nastily lunged for the ball but instead kicked the Welsh ace directly on the kneecap, leaving him writhing in agony.
The Wales team were fuming and instantly protested with the referee as he only gave the Latvian a yellow card.
VAR then ordered the official to check out the pitchside monitor for a possible red card for the cynical hack.
However, Ikaunieks ended up unbelievably staying on the field after the referee decided that his original decision would stand – leaving fans and pundits alike in disbelief.
“One of the most blatant red cards you will ever see,” tweeted one.
Another asked: “How has the ref not given a red for that?”
A fellow supported said: “Player gets booted in the knee well after the ball has gone, no red card after looking at the replay for an age. Disgraceful refereeing.”
Ex-Wales striker Ian Walsh told BBC Radio Wales: “That is an absolute joke.
“You talk about standards, and all the intricate rules in football now that you can and you can’t do.
“Something as obvious as that and you’re not off the pitch. That is a disgrace.”
And fellow former Welsh frontman Nathan Blake agreed, telling BBC Radio Wales: “I can’t believe it. That is a disgraceful decision.”
Meanwhile, Ramsey completed a century of career goals to keep Wales’ slim hopes of reaching Euro 2024 alive.
But the big question is will Rob Page still be in charge when their bid to reach Germany resumes next month?
Talk of the building pressure following the disastrous back to back defeats in June dominated the build up to this game.
And a narrow win over the group minnows – thanks to the captain’s first half spot-kick and an injury time second from sub Brooks – may not be enough to save him.
Croatia’s win in Armenia earlier in the day coupled with three points in Riga means Wales are still fighting – although they have little margin for error in the autumn.
This was a game they simply had to win – and after just one victory in their last 13 games nothing could be taken for granted.
Yet they could have been ahead inside the first couple of minutes as Spurs new boy Brennan Johnson was sent clear by Ethan Ampadu but blasted his effort over the angle.
Ampadu himself nodded a chance over while Ben Davies saw a header tipped over by Roberts Ozols in the Latvia goal.
The result might still not be enough to save Rob Page’s jobCredit: EPA
The Dragons were looking confident and they got the goal they deserved when Kaspars Dubra needlessly barged over Harry Wilson.
It was a clear penalty and skipper Ramsey was cool from the spot as he sent Ozols the wrong way for his 21st international goal.
Neco Williams and Johnson both fluffed opportunities to extend the lead and Wales were almost punished for their wastefulness at the end of the first half.
Latvia – ranked 134th in the world – created three good chances with Ikaunieks heading the best one straight at the feet of Danny Ward.
When Ramsey had to be withdrawn early in the second half it could have affected the visitors but they continued to dominate.
Tottenham fans will be hoping their new £47.5million signing Johnson is saving his goals for them as he could have had a hat-trick here.
Ikaunieks can count himself lucky to escape a red card for a wild tackle on James – with the VAR decision taking an age to sort out.
And it would have been hard for Wales to stomach if the midfielder’s late effort went in – but luckily for them it was just the wrong side of Ward’s post.
But deep in stoppage time Wilson played in Brooks who expertly clipped in his first international goal since beating cancer.
A heart-warming moment and a big three points – whether it is enough to save Page remains to be seen.