Fulham boss Marco Silva insisted his goalkeeper Bernd Leno “touched” but “didn’t push” a ball boy during the Cottagers’ 3-0 defeat at Bournemouth.
The second-half incident occurred when Leno went to collect the ball from the youngster’s outstretched hand before using his own hand to make deliberate contact with the shoulder of the ball boy, who appeared to take a step back for balance.
Leno, who seemed to take issue with the speed at which the ball was being returned, and had already been booked, was subjected to a chorus of boos.
The 31-year-old German later returned to apologise to the boy for the encounter, though his manager was adamant the interaction had been exaggerated.
Silva said: “Have you seen him pushing? I didn’t see this. Yes, he apologised. I spoke with Bernd about it.
“It’s clear he went to speak with the boy after that moment as the top professional that he is, the really experienced player that he is as well.
“He wanted to play quick. The ball boys, I don’t know who gave them instructions to hold always the ball to delay the beginning of the game again. OK, we are losing, he ran to the ball. I didn’t see him pushing.
“He touched the ball boy, he didn’t push the ball boy. They are different things, when you touch a ball boy or you push a ball boy. I am not English but I know the difference between one word and the other, and we have to say the truth in that moment.”
The PA news agency understands no action will be taken over the incident.
It was a low point of a frustrating afternoon for Silva’s men, who fell behind when Justin Kluivert scored on the stroke of half-time and a penalty needlessly conceded by Joao Palhinha allowed Dominic Solanke to score his 12th goal of the Premier League season – already more than he registered in his first 96 appearances in the competition.
Luis Sinisterra added a third in stoppage time as the Cherries extended their unbeaten run to seven and consigned Fulham to a third straight loss following back-to-back 5-0 victories to start the month.
Asked if he had complained about what he felt was a deliberate delay by the ball boys, Silva replied: “I was really so upset with our performance that I didn’t even have the energy to start to complain.”
Bournemouth boss Andoni Iraola, who watched on from the stands as he served a touchline ban, said he had not seen a replay of the incident but, when asked if the ball boys had been instructed to slow down, replied: “No, no, for sure there is no instruction, for sure. This I can guarantee.
“I don’t know what happened exactly, but I think everyone for sure has to be careful because they are boys that are trying to help everyone, not only Bournemouth.”
The Cherries travel to Tottenham on New Year’s Eve having now taken 19 points from the last 21 available and matching their longest unbeaten Premier League run set in 2017-18.
“We want to keep it going,” Iraola said. “We’re not as bad as we looked at the beginning of the season, we’re not as good as we look now probably today. We’re somewhere in the middle.”