Republic of Ireland defender Andy O’Brien has accused France goalkeeper Fabien Barthez of being ‘unsportsmanlike’ after again being the target of what looked to be a deliberate elbow.
West Brom’s Darren Purse recently attempted to strike Newcastle centre-back O’Brien but ironically caught team-mate Riccardo Scimeca.
O’Brien had the last laugh when Purse was subsequently suspended for three matches for violent conduct because although it was Scimeca he hit, it was still an act of aggression and his intentions were clear.
Barthez struck the 25-year-old in last night’s World Cup Group Four qualifier at the Stade de France.
In the closing stages of the game, Barthez swung an elbow at O’Brien and caught him on his ear, resulting in a melee in the six-yard box.
Spanish referee Arturo Dauden Ibanez failed to spot the incident, but television cameras did and the matter may yet be brought before FIFA’s disciplinary committee for review.
O’Brien was unhappy with former Manchester United star Barthez, last night skippering France in the absence of the suspended Partick Vieira.
“The reason I stood with Barthez was because he seemed to be claiming all the crosses, so I just stood my ground and as the ball was about to be played in, he caught me with his elbow,” explained O’Brien.
“I’m not making anything up. I think television will prove that, but whether anything will be done about it, I don’t know.
“It’s not for me to decide if it’s reviewed, but I was disappointed he caught me with his elbow. It’s not something that is very sportsmanlike and it’s a shame it happened.
“You only have to look at the TV replay to see what did happen. That’s all I can say.
“But I was nearly hit a couple of weeks when Darren Purse tried to do me, only to catch his own player and he got banned.”
Despite the furore, it failed to take the shine off a sparkling Irish performance, with O’Brien a key figure at the heart of the back four alongside skipper Kenny Cunningham in keeping Thierry Henry and Co at bay.
O’Brien has now played all three qualifying games under manager Brian Kerr.
“I’ve always had faith in my ability, but you have to wait until you are given a chance and I’m very grateful to Brian for giving me the opportunity,” added O’Brien.
“They say patience is a virtue and hopefully I can improve and develop as a player and hopefully cement a place in the team.”
There is no doubt shutting out France on their own soil has now become a highlight of O’Brien’s career.
“To keep a clean sheet against players of their calibre is great and a credit to the whole team.
“But it’s vital we don’t now waste these last two away results against Switzerland and France. There are still no easy games and we have to stay focused on the job ahead.”