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Nottingham Forest's Morgan Gibbs-White remonstrates with referee Anthony Taylor during a Premier League match against Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday. Image Credit: Reuters

Liverpool: Nottingham Forest questioned the integrity of the Premier League after claiming the VAR official who denied them three penalties in a damaging 2-0 defeat at Everton is a fan of relegation rivals Luton.

Everton took a huge step towards securing their Premier League survival at Forest’s expense on Sunday.

Sean Dyche’s side took the lead through Idrissa Gueye’s first-half strike at Goodison Park before Dwight McNeil wrapped up the priceless points in the closing stages.

But Forest felt hard done by after three strong penalty claims against Everton’s Ashley Young were rejected by VAR.

Within minutes of the final whistle, Forest’s frustration was made clear as a statement on their official X account made the claim that VAR official Stuart Attwell supports Luton.

“Three extremely poor decisions — three penalties not given — which we simply cannot accept. We warned the PGMOL (referees’ governing body) that the VAR is a Luton fan before the game but they didn’t change him,” the statement said.

“Our patience has been tested multiple times. NFFC will now consider its options.”

Forest had already been so incensed by some of the officiating against them this season they appointed former referee Mark Clattenburg as a consultant analyst.

Everton’s second win in their last 16 league games lifted them five points clear of the relegation zone.

The Toffees have five games left, while fourth bottom Forest, third bottom Luton and second bottom Burnley have only four remaining.

For the third successive season, Everton find themselves embroiled in a nerve-shredding fight for survival, but this was a major moment in their bid to preserve the top-flight status they have held since 1954.

The only concern for Dyche was the sight of Everton striker Beto appearing to be knocked out after a clash of heads with Morgan Gibbs-White.

Beto was stretchered off after lengthy treatment, raising his hand to acknowledge the crowd in a sign he had regained consciousness.

With one win in their last nine league games, Forest are only one point clear of the bottom three as they try to avoid slipping back into the Championship after two years among the elite.

Given the points penalties incurred by Everton and Forest this season, their meeting on Merseyside had been dubbed the “deduction derby”.

Everton were handed a 10-point punishment that was reduced to six on appeal earlier this season for financial breaches.

They are appealing against the two-point deduction imposed recently for another case of similar offences.

Forest have also been hit with a four-point deduction for financial breaches, with their appeal set to be held on Wednesday.

Dyche relief

Dyche called Monday’s 6-0 hammering at Chelsea “arguably the worst moment” of his career, but he got the response he wanted after a week of “home truths”.

To their immense frustration, Forest appealed in vain for an early penalty after Young caught Giovanni Reyna from behind.

Gueye rubbed salt into Forest’s wounds as he put Everton ahead in the 29th minute.

Forest could only clear to the Senegal midfielder, who took a touch before scuffing a low 25-yard shot that crept into the far corner past Matz Sels’ despairing dive.

Forest felt aggrieved by another VAR decision just before half-time after Young blocked a cross with his arm but was not punished with a penalty.

Incredibly, Young was involved again when Forest had a third penalty appeal rejected after the 38-year-old Everton defender clipped Callum Hudson-Odoi early in the second half.

Gibbs-White screwed wide from a golden opportunity to equalise and with 14 minutes left McNeil delivered the knockout blow.

McNeil’s incisive break climaxed with the winger drilling into the bottom corner to celebrate his 200th Premier League appearance in style.