Thursday evening’s battle between Western United and Wellington Phoenix has extended beyond 90 minutes on the UTAS Stadium pitch, with both Mark Rudan and Ufuk Talay taking issue with the other’s sides approach and the officiating following the contest.
An early strike by Ben Waine - his third in three consecutive starts - cancelled out by Olyroo hopeful Lachlan Wales 27th minute equaliser, United and Phoenix were forced to share the spoils of a 1-1 draw on Thursday evening in what was a spirited and hard-hitting affair.
The two clubs rapidly building one of the A-League’s fiercer rivalries, referee Alex King was forced to go to his pocket early and often throughout the contest, with the sides combining for 30 fouls across the 90 minutes.
Adjudged to have earned a second yellow card for the evening after his making contact with the head of Waine in an aerial duel, United defender Brendan Hamill was sent off just before halftime, forcing his side into an ultimately successful rearguard action to defend their point throughout the second half.
“[The second yellow was] very soft. Extremely soft,” Rudan said post-game.
“It should have been 11 v 11 in the second half, it completely changed the game. It was a fourth official’s call. I asked Shaun whose decision it was, he said it was mine. I was surprised by that.
“[I was a] defender for 20 years. I teach my players to jump with their arms up to get elevation, that’s what you do. [I] couldn’t believe it.
“Brendan Hamill is not that type of guy, never has been that kind of guy.
“I had this conversation with Strebre [Delovski, the A-League’s Director of Refereeing] and the other guys about understanding people. Get to know people. Communicate. You’re a referee, a professional referee getting paid full time. Understand personalities and people.”
Needless to say, Talay saw the incident slightly differently.
“It was right in front of me,” the Phoenix boss said. “The rules are if you lead with your arms and you hit a player in the head it’s a yellow card. So…”
For his part, the visiting gaffer expressed disappointment with the way that his side sought to use their one-man advantage in the second half, not believing they executed well enough or created enough chances to turn their numerical superiority into goals.
“I think it’s a big opportunity missed [by] us tonight,” he said.
“First half I thought we played some good football but the second half wasn’t good enough.
“I think the [second half] decision making was poor, the execution was poor. We changed our shape a little bit in the second half to give us a bit of width to create an overload on the side but we didn’t execute it well.
“It was two points dropped where it was an opportunity for us to get three points.”
One of the most fouled sides in the competition, the Nix were deemed by referee Alex King to have been fouled 13 times by their foes in the first half of the game.
“It’s something we spoke [about] with [fourth official] Shaun [Evans] on the sideline, the fourth official, where every time we won the ball in transition they tend to foul us,” said Talay.
“That’s also a tactic of the game and that’s something maybe they employed and [maybe] they spoke about before the game.
“Every referee is different in the way they officiate the game and that’s why there’s always going to be inconsistency because they see the game differently.
“We’ve spoken about this before with Strebe before, as well, about our players getting fouled - especially when we win the ball because I think we are a good team in transition and I think that’s a way of us getting stopped.”
Rudan, though, wasn’t a fan of his opposite numbers communication with the fourth official throughout the contest.
“The opposition coach [Talay] didn’t stop shouting and barking at the referee non-stop,” said Rudan.
“[He] does it all the time. All the time.
“And then when we go and ask for a free-kick we get told to be quiet.
“I speak to a lot of the coaches, I think it’s the same, everybody thinks the same: it’s constant.
“For me, it’s about making sure the fourth official controls it. But the fourth official was talking for about 30 minutes of that first half with their coach. I don’t know why.
“And he gets away with it and good luck to him!
“Ufuk has done that for a couple of years. He goes about his business and I don’t necessarily think it's good but it's not for me to control. It’s for the fourth official and the guys in control.”
When asked for his response to those assertions, Wellington’s coach was succinct.
“That’s his problem.”