Cole defends English standout Lewis: 'Ref wanted to be the big star'

Rico Lewis had a remarkable debut for England on Monday evening. The Manchester City defender was named Man of the Match against North Macedonia, but also conceded a penalty. Unjustly, according to 56-times capped English international Joe Cole.

Cole defends English standout Lewis: 'Ref wanted to be the big star'
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In the Euro qualifier against North Macedonia, already-qualified England fell behind just before half-time. Lewis headed away a high ball and hit his opponent in the face with his hand upon landing. After intervention from the VAR, Slovak referee Filip Glova awarded a penalty and Enis Bardhi scored on the rebound.

Former Chelsea player Joe Cole called it 'an absurd penalty' in a conversation with the Daily Mail. 'The referee just wanted to be the big star of the show.' Former international Dion Dublin was also surprised. 'This can't be a penalty, can it? Football is a contact sport. How else are you supposed to jump? For me, this is never a penalty, never.'

However, Lewis was not fazed by this. The defender played a strong game. He also had a passing accuracy of one hundred percent, after 59 passes. 'His composure on the ball was fantastic,' said manager Gareth Southgate in the post-match press conference. 'He can be very proud of what he showed. He demonstrated great resilience after his disappointment at the penalty incident and played excellently.

Lewis himself was also pleased with his performance. "Overall, I am very content. Of course, it's a pity about the result (1-1, ed.). But I am very happy that I was able to make my debut. It's a very nice birthday present for myself." Lewis turned nineteen years old on Tuesday.