x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Sabella says red cards were 'just'

Amid all the criticism of Roberto Rosetti, the Italian referee who sent off three Pohang Steelers players in their 2-1 Club World Cup semi-final loss to Estudiantes on Tuesday, one man backed the card-happy official's performance.

ABU DHABI // Amid all the criticism of Roberto Rosetti, the Italian referee who sent off three Pohang Steelers players in their 2-1 Club World Cup semi-final loss to Estudiantes on Tuesday, one man backed the card-happy official's performance. Asked whether he sympathised with his opposite number Sergio Farias, the Estudiantes coach Alejandro Sabella said: "It depends on whether the sendings off were just or unjust. I will have to watch the incidents again, but I think most of the red cards were just, nearly all."

Sabella, however, struggled to justify his own team's failure to capitalise against the depleted Steelers. "At the end of the game, with three less players and their striker in goal, we should have tried a little bit more," said the Conmebol champion's coach. "But the preservation instincts of my players might have been in their minds, they tried to keep the ball and save energy for the final." The Argentine also insisted that navigating the South Korean side had not been as simple as most observers expected. "One of the best attributes of Pohang was their strong defence," Sabella said. "It was very difficult to find a way through."

After blasting Rosetti's decision-making in the post-match press conference, the Steelers' angry coach Farias outlined what he viewed as an organisational conspiracy. "There was no referee, I didn't see one," said Farias as he left the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on Tuesday night. "It's clear to us that they made one competition for two teams: Barcelona and Estudiantes. We feel all the organisation has gone towards helping them - they will get their final. There is an extra tournament for us, Mazembe and Atlante."

Pohang now face a third and fourth place play-off match without three of their leading players and Farias is not expecting Ros-etti to overturn any of his decisions. "We have one more game and we'll be missing three important players," he said. "I have no other comments to make." Despite being forced to put on goalkeeper's gloves after Rosetti dismissed Hwa-Yong Shin with 15 minutes left to play, Pohang's goalscorer Denilson was more tolerant of the referee's errors.

"I don't want to talk about the referee," said the Brazilian. "He's experienced and if he made mistakes they are there to see. Referees cannot see everything." emegson@thenational.ae