Saturday 24 February 2018

Referee not to blame for Coleman injury - O'Neill

Gareth Bale is shown a yellow card by referee Nicola Rizzoli for a late tackle on John O'Shea. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Gareth Bale is shown a yellow card by referee Nicola Rizzoli for a late tackle on John O'Shea. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Martin O'Neill has sought to clarify that he attaches no blame to Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli for his role in Seamus Coleman's horror injury last Friday.

The official did come in for some criticism in the aftermath of the bruising scoreless draw in Dublin, with the argument put forward that his leniency created the atmosphere that led to Neil Taylor's leg-breaking challenge on the Irish skipper.

O'Neill made the point on Monday that Rizzoli should have sent off Gareth Bale for his late challenge on John O'Shea in the previous passage of play.

But, in the course of his reflections on the March double-header, O'Neill mounted an unprompted defence of the 2014 World Cup final ref.

"I've seen the game back and it's confirmed my view," said O'Neill. "Gareth Bale could have got a red card, that's true. The referee saw the incident and only chose a yellow.

"But the referee had nothing to do with Seamus' tackle - he dealt with it on the field. I thought the referee actually did fine, really fine.

"He let certain things go which, in the overall scheme of football now, is no bad thing.


"I don't agree with that (view that his early approach caused later problems) - we've been used to watching games where referees stop a game, book players and there's three or four bookings within the first ten minutes.

"If you can let certain things go, where some people have made a challenge and they get up… not rough and tumble, but I don't agree with the point that because he allowed some things to go on, that forced people to make challenges they shouldn't have done."

That led into a broader point about FIFA's rules for this campaign which mean that two bookings are punished with a one-game ban. It's three in a European Championships campaign and O'Neill feels that sanction for two yellows is a 'nonsense'.

"Referees in general are trigger-happy with cards," he said. "Given you have to play ten games, it's almost an impossibility to go through (without a ban) if you are combative at all either as a centre-half or a midfield player."

Meanwhile, Daryl Horgan's sparkling contribution against Iceland has put him in contention for involvement in the rest of the campaign, according to O'Neill.

The 24-year-old received his first call-up in November but didn't get off the bench in Austria. O'Neill says that the Preston winger has showed that he can be a contender to figure in the return meeting in June.

"Why shouldn't he?" said O'Neill. "I've mentioned to him that I thought his attitude and performance in our little training sessions has been very positive. He had a really strong chance of starting but I thought with a couple of the other debuts that I'd given, you still want to win the game, but he was still very close to starting.

"His efforts in training have been terrific, there's a good spirit about the lad and for his length of time on the pitch, he did well."

Meanwhile, Wales captain Ashley Williams has detailed the extent to which his colleague Neil Taylor was devastated after his leg-breaking challenge on Seamus Coleman last Friday.

Everton defender Williams is friends with both players, and he tried to act as a bridge between the pair when he found Taylor in tears in the Aviva Stadium dressing-room.

"He asked me to check if it would be okay to go to see Seamus in hospital. He got his number off me and sent him a text straight away," said Williams.

"I tried to go to the hospital Seamus was in after the game but the FAI said he'd had a few family visitors and they were trying to get him to sleep.

"I sent him a text and he woke up in the night and texted me back. I spoke to him then. I've spoken to him since, too, and he seems positive.

"I didn't really see the tackle. . . It took me a minute to realise, 'Actually, he hasn't got up', and that it was Seamus who was down. At that point, I wasn't thinking about the game, or us being down to 10 men, I started thinking, 'Is my mate okay?'.

"When I found out it was serious it made me feel sick inside because it's someone who I like so much.

"I didn't really know anyone at Everton when I but he made me feel welcome and helped me to settle in. He's one of the good guys in football."

Irish Independent

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