MANCHESTER, England (USA TODAY) - The Canadian women's soccer team feels "robbed" and "cheated" after what its coach described as two "bizarre" calls in a 4-3 U.S. victory in Monday's Olympic semifinal game.
Canadian players were upset about a second-half sequence in which Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod corralled a loose ball, and the referee determined she held it for more than the allowed six seconds as she searched for a place to throw it. She was assessed a foul, and the USA was awarded an indirect free kick inside the penalty area.
U.S. midfielder Megan Rapinoe took the free kick and spiked it off Canadian Lauren Sesselmann's arm, eliciting a handball call and a penalty kick, which Abby Wambach converted to tie the game 3-3 before extra time.
McLeod said she did not receive a legitimate warning, which is typical before six-second calls. Such penalties are unusual, especially late in elimination games of Olympic or World Cup tournaments.
"We feel like we got robbed in this game," McLeod said. "The referee said I had the ball for ten seconds. She obviously counted the time I was on the ground with the ball. Once I got to my feet I calculate I only had the ball for five seconds."
Said Canadian team captain Christine Sinclair: "We feel like we didn't lose. We feel like it was taken from us. It's a shame in a game like that, which is so important, that the ref had such an impact on it. We feel cheated."
Wambach said the referee had previously warned McLeod and that she had been holding the ball for far longer earlier in the game.
"There was a few other times throughout the game that she held it for 18 seconds, 10 seconds," Wambach said. "And the referee had warned her before to play quicker. It's the referee's call. I feel like you can't blame something on the referee.
"We feel good about the way that we won tonight."
Canadian coach John Herdman, who before the game complained to the news media that the U.S. team was making illegal contact with opponents during its set plays, called the decisions "bizarre."
"I've never seen a decision like that given," he said. "An indirect free kick without a real warning or a yellow card, just a bit random. And then a handball when something just gets blasted at you. Sometimes that's the way it is. You make your own luck."