Champions League: Vieira standing by Cole

Ashley Cole’s Arsenal team-mates are convinced he will bounce back without a mental scar from the red card shock that cost the Gunners a potentially damaging Champions League setback in Majorca.

Ashley Cole’s Arsenal team-mates are convinced he will bounce back without a mental scar from the red card shock that cost the Gunners a potentially damaging Champions League setback in Majorca.

Cole, England’s first choice left back at the age of just 20 and after little more than a year in the Premiership, saw his world come crashing down when he was sent off after just 11 minutes.

And his misery was compounded by the fact that the penalty he gave away proved to be Real Mallorca’s winner and shattered Arsenal’s plan to kick off their latest European campaign with an away win against the team who finished third in Spain above Barcelona and Valencia last season.

Yet stand-in captain Patrick Vieira, leading Arsenal for the first time in the absence of injured Tony Adams, said: ‘‘It was a big blow for Ashley and a big blow for the team, but I’m not worried about him.

‘‘He’s a big guy. Yes, a young player but also a strong one both on the pitch and in his mind.

‘‘This setback won’t stay with him too long. And we’ll come back from this result, too.

‘‘We’re strong at home and we’ll make it very tough for Schalke at Highbury next week. There’s still a long road to go in the Champions League.’’

Cole will receive just a one-match European ban for the first red card of his senior career. It is an automatic suspension for the game against German League runners-up Schalke 04 next Wednesday.

UEFA’s disciplinary committee have the power to extend it if they wish but that’s unlikely as referee Knud Erik Fister will report a ‘‘technical’’ foul rather than a dismissal for violent conduct.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger admits he has been looking for an opportunity to rest Cole, whose career-rise has been so meteoric that it it’s inevitable he may face the danger of burn-out. Now Wenger need look no further.

The game in Spain was up for Arsenal as soon as Cole walked. Wenger, who has now seen 36 Arsenal players sent off in his six years in charge, said: ‘‘In my opinion it was very harsh.

‘‘The referee can give a penalty for what happened but to send him off as well made it very difficult for us.

‘‘Playing 10 men against 11 for nearly 80 minutes isn’t ideal especially when you are a goal down from a penalty.

‘‘There’s not much more you can say. We did what we could and came back near the end to nearly score, but having the extra man for so long made it easy for Mallorca. They didn’t really earn their win.

‘‘I still believe we will qualify. You cannot judge us on this game when we had to change everything after 10 minutes.’’

Cole brought down Mallorca’s Alberto Luque from behind when left completely exposed by Argentinian Ariel Ibagaza’s spearing pass that cut out central defenders Martin Keown and Sol Campbell.

Cole, who has admitted he must improve his defending despite his international status, got it wrong and, as the last defender, had to see red. Vicente Engonga sent David Seaman the wrong way with the penalty.

But it was only Seaman’s heroics which saved Arsenal a much heavier defeat.

He made save after to save as Campbell and Keown were continually pulled apart by Luque and the livewire Engonga to surely confound any remaining critics who say he’s too old and too injury-prone to be England’s World Cup number one.

Wenger said: ‘‘David was outstanding. If he had saved the penalty as well it would have been the perfect match for him, but really he cannot be reproached at all.’’

Wenger will quickly dismiss the defeat as just ‘‘one of those nights’’ which followed a day of terrorist atrocities in America that made hyping up the significance of a mere football match slightly distasteful.

‘‘We were all aware, of course, about what happened in America but there was still a job for us to do and we had to concentrate on that,’’ admitted Wenger.

Certainly Arsenal have an even bigger job against Schalke, despite their even bigger surprise defeat at home to Panathinaikos.

It is a must-win prospect if they are to entertain serious hopes of reaching the second round and even beyond the quarter-final place they achieved in the Champions League last season.

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