Two former Premier League match officials criticized referee Mike Jones on Sunday for allowing a goal that deflected in off a beach ball in Sunderland’s 1-0 victory over Liverpool.

Dermot Gallagher, a topflight referee between 1992 and 2007, said that Darren Bent’s fifth-minute goal at the Stadium of Light on Saturday should have been disallowed with play being restarted by a “drop ball.”

“It was such a glaring error. Everybody knows that when something encroaches on to the pitch the game stops,” he said.

“It’s an error that no one can fathom because it goes down to grass-roots level in the laws of the game. For it to happen in a high profile game at this level is unbelievable. Any one of the four (officials) could have stepped in.”

Jeff Winter, whose final game as a referee was the 2004 FA Cup final between Manchester United and Millwall, said this mistake was even worse than officials not seeing whether the ball has crossed the goal line.

“I try to defend referees wherever possible, having been there and knowing the problems they face,” Winter said. “Everybody’s having a laugh and a joke about it, but this is far more serious in terms of the laws of the game than when the referee doesn’t see the ball go over the goal line.”

“That is understandable with the pace of the modern game and being unsighted, but this is just basic law. An outside influence is any outside influence. It is anything other than the 22 maximum players on the field and the referee. If it hits the referee and goes in, he’s part of the game. If a spectator comes on the pitch and kicks the ball, the game must be stopped.”

While the result will stand with Liverpool sliding to eighth after a fourth loss in nine games, the Professional Games Match Officials could drop Jones from Premier League games in the next few weeks if they find he made a serious mistake.

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