Wednesday 21 February 2018

'How can he appeal a yellow that could have been red?' - Gareth Bale protest shocks Martin O'Neill

Irish boss taken aback by Welsh stance as bad blood from Friday overshadows friendly

Gareth Bale is in a race against time to be fit for clash with Ireland
Gareth Bale is in a race against time to be fit for clash with Ireland
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill is baffled by Gareth Bale's attempt to claim he was wronged in Friday's bruising World Cup qualifier with Wales.

The fall-out from that encounter has overshadowed tonight's friendly with Iceland at the Aviva Stadium, with Seamus Coleman's broken leg foremost in O'Neill's thoughts.

He suffered the injury after a bad challenge from Neil Taylor just seconds after Bale escaped with a yellow for a high and late tackle on John O'Shea at the other end of the park.

O'Neill believes that Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli could have handled the situation better, but was mystified when he heard that Welsh boss Chris Coleman said Bale planned to appeal his booking that rules him out of his country's big qualifier with Serbia in June.

The Real Madrid star claimed that O'Shea had kicked him, which led to a collision. That surprised O'Neill, who feels there should be no debate about the seriousness of the offences committed by Bale and Taylor - incidents which should add spice to the return meeting between the nations in the final game of the campaign in October.

"I can't see how they can possibly think about appealing a card when it was very close to being red and on another day the referee could have given a red," said O'Neill.

Robbie Brady puts his best foot forward during training ahead of tonight’s game with Iceland. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Robbie Brady puts his best foot forward during training ahead of tonight’s game with Iceland. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

"I will reiterate that I don't think anyone can disagree that both challenges were very, very poor.

"I don't think you can appeal a yellow card unless it's mistaken identity anyway."

O'Shea told Newstalk last night that he didn't realise how bad Bale's challenge was until he watched a replay back.

"Initially, I didn't think it was too bad but when you see it back, it was a bad tackle," said the veteran, who also disputes Chris Coleman's suggestion that the challenges were somehow a product of a game where players from both teams had crossed the line.

"Not at all," said O'Shea, "For me anyway, I didn't think there was any needle."

"Because of the nature of everyone knowing each other so well, there was always going to be a natural competitiveness," continued O'Shea, who had stitches inserted in his wound.

"I was the lucky one. Because we all know what happened a minute later."

The FAI and the Everton medical staff have been in touch about Coleman's recovery, and O'Neill has indicated he will speak to the Goodison Park club when the Iceland match is out of the way.

He recently tried to contact Ronald Koeman to discuss James McCarthy's wellbeing but received no response.

FIFA will pay Coleman's basic salary - said to be in the region of £50,000-a-week - during his lay-off under the terms of the club protection programme that covers serious injuries sustained on international duty.

O'Neill said that his captain is trying to be positive as he comes to terms with the injury that is expected to rule him out for the rest of the World Cup campaign.

Medics are confident he will make a full recovery as the fractures were clean, but it is too early to put a firm time-line on his recuperation.

Ireland will field an experimental line-up against Iceland, with Aston Villa's Conor Hourihane in line for his debut and Aberdeen's Jonny Hayes a strong candidate for a first start.

Preston pair Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle and Brentford's John Egan are also in the frame to make a first appearance for their country at some stage in proceedings.

Robbie Brady will captain Ireland and it's anticipated he will feature at left-back, with wholesale changes on the agenda.

Irish Independent

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