Saturday 18 November 2017

Striker's gamesmanship takes sheen off Leicester's glorious achievement

Sevilla's Samir Nasri is spoken to by Islam Slimani as he attempts to confront Leicester City's Jamie Vardy after Nasri is sent off. Photo: Darren Staples/Reuters
Sevilla's Samir Nasri is spoken to by Islam Slimani as he attempts to confront Leicester City's Jamie Vardy after Nasri is sent off. Photo: Darren Staples/Reuters

Ian Herbert

For once, it was more than a case of the footballer losing it in a moment of juvenile fury. Samir Nasri's rage really did have a component of rationale and genuine indignation about it.

He was sent off 20 minutes before the end of Sevilla's defeat to Leicester. And yet, as the players made their way off the pitch, he was waiting near the dressing rooms for Jamie Vardy, determined to have this thing out with him.

He was prevented from doing so. The home team's French Arab players - Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani - saw him, wandered up, and walked him away from a possible flashpoint.

It had been Slimani who had reasoned with Nasri as he refused to walk off the pitch.

Nasri is not generally a defensible character because he has that uncanny knack of behaving like an idiot.

The Spanish drug-testing authorities are currently in no rush to rule on whether he broke doping rules by visiting the Los Angeles intravenous therapy clinic 'Drip Doctors'.

But there were two sides to the story this time and Nasri's is the convincing one.

For over 18 months now, we have become more accustomed to that habit - evident again on Tuesday - of Vardy hooking out a leg to ensure a defender or goalkeeper catches it and clips him, so winning a free-kick.

If every act of simulation brought a caution, Vardy would have been the one taking an early walk on Tuesday night.

And that was before the impression of a man touching a 1,000 volt cable he gave after the French player brought his head down to Vardy's.

Insulted

Contrary to some of the stories doing the rounds yesterday, Vardy had not repeatedly insulted the midfielder's family.

Nasri's testimony revealed that he had spoken first after the off-the-ball shove on him from Vardy which the cameras picked up.

But as game-turning devices go, it was, frankly, a disgrace: an act which takes the sheen off Leicester's accomplishment.

And yes - Nasri is most certainly right in his assessment of the incident; if a foreign player had employed such a strategy against any British club's player, he would be condemned.

Gamesmanship in football is as old as the hills.

When Liverpool and Nottingham Forest were England's standard-bearers in the 1970s and 1980s, they would spot a physically weak opponent and bully him out of the game.

Liverpool once got a taste of their own medicine when the two sides faced each other in a 1979 tie, and Terry McDermott was silenced by Forest's hard men.

Almost all of that was sneaky - a surreptitious kick here or there when no-one was looking. But there was no squealing. You dished it out and you took it back.

In very many ways, Tuesday night in Leicester was a throwback to those great European Cup years, with an atmosphere which Manchester City and Arsenal fans could do worse than witness.

Champions League nights in their grounds can't carry a torch to the atmosphere on what some around the east Midlands club were on Wednesday describing as the very best night - if not the best - in the club's history.

To a man, the jubilant players stopped to talk as they processed out, though not Vardy. He knew what he had done. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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