Watford manager Javi Gracia bemoaned the dismissal of captain Troy Deeney during his side’s narrow 1-0 defeat to Arsenal on Monday night.
The long-serving striker received his marching orders just 11 minutes into the Premier League fixture at Vicarage Road after appearing to catch diminutive Gunners midfielder Lucas Torreira in the face with his forearm.
That red card compounded a miserable two-minute stretch for FA Cup finalists Watford, who had fallen behind shortly before when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang punished a woeful moment of hesitancy from goalkeeper Ben Foster to net his 18th top-flight goal of the season.
While the general consensus among pundits appeared to be that the sending off by referee Craig Pawson was justified, Hornets boss Gracia believes that the incident was worthy of a caution at most.
“I respect the referee’s decision – and in this case – I respect it as well but I don’t agree,” he told Sky Sports in his post-match interview.
“In my opinion it was maybe a yellow card, but never a red card.
“I don’t want to speak only on that. I prefer to speak about my players and today they have to have their recognition because, it’s true, we didn’t get a point, but we put in a good performance and keep playing with the same ambition and the same desire we played, all game.”
Watford battled admirably with 10 men for the majority of the match and had a number of chances to draw level, twice hitting the woodwork.
Gracia was pleased with his team’s efforts despite them missing out on the chance to move up to seventh in the table.
“I only have one feeling. I’m very proud of my team,” he said. “We did everything to win.
“We conceded an early goal but after, we showed our ambition and our character and tried to create chances playing against Arsenal with 10 players, many, many times.
“We created chances until the end, I think.”