Martin O’Neill has praised referee Nicola Rizzoli’s handling of the game against Wales and insisted that, while he still feels Gareth Bale’s challenge on John O’Shea merited a sending-off, the official’s decision to award only a yellow card for that incident cannot be linked in any way to the subsequent Neil Taylor tackle which broke Seamus Coleman’s leg.
In the highly-charged fall-out from Friday’s match, O’Neill had initially appeared to be taking a different line, but he now says he was preoccupied at that point with the shocking extent of Coleman’s injury and the implications for the player, his club and his country.
On further reflection, and having reviewed the match, O’Neill has come to the conclusion the Italian did “really fine” on the night.
“I’ve seen the game back and it’s only confirmed my view Gareth Bale could have got a red card, that’s true,” he says now.
“The referee saw the incident and only chose a yellow card. (But) the referee is nothing to do with the tackle on Seamus — he only dealt with it the way he saw it on the field.
“And, personally speaking, if you want my view, I thought the referee actually did really fine in the match, honestly. He let certain things go which, I’ve got to tell you, in the overall scheme of football now, is no bad thing.
“Gareth Bale could have got a red card in other circumstances: He’s gone over the top whether he’s meant to do it or not. And whether the young lad has meant to do Seamus or not, I don’t know, (but) it was a poor challenge bordering on the reckless.
“But, at the end of the day, I thought the referee’s handling was fine.
“We have been used to watching matches where referees stop a game and (there are) three or four bookings within the first 10 minutes.
“If it’s a proper booking offence, absolutely, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the first minute, sixth minute or the last minute of the game.
“But I don’t agree with the point that because he (Rizzoli) allowed some things to go on, that forced people to make challenges they shouldn’t have done.”
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed among Seamus Coleman’s visitors in hospital in Dublin on Tuesday was the President of Ireland — and noted football fan — Michael D. Higgins.
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