Saturday night’s Original Rivalry saw a late red card spark conflict involving Adelaide United, Melbourne Victory and the referees – and in the wash-up, Reds vice-captain Ben Halloran has gone to bat for all three sides.
The experienced Adelaide winger has given a comprehensive review of teenage teammate Nestory Irankunda’s late red card in the 1-1 draw, the decision-making of the officiating team in the moment, and the subsequent reaction from the Victory players in what was a fiery end to the action at AAMI Park.
Halloran believes the officiating team did miss a foul on Irankunda by Victory’s Chris Ikonomidis before the 17-year-old blasted referee Alex King, earning himself a second yellow card.
But putting the in-play incident aside, Halloran has firmly addressed Irankunda’s reaction to referee King, labelling his actions as unacceptable in the Isuzu UTE A-League.
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“I haven’t really spoken to him directly – but he’s fine,” Halloran said of Irankunda. “Red cards happen in football.
“I think it probably was a foul on Nestor, and I think he probably did overreact. We don’t accept speaking to referees like that in our team and across the competition, so it’s a learning experience for Nestor.”
As Irankunda was sent to the stands, Victory defender Connor Chapman made matters worse by rushing over to confront Irankunda. Post-game he revealed his reaction was caused by his frustration at the incident that saw Roderick Miranda sent off earlier in the second half.
Halloran said he understood Chapman’s reaction due to the intensity of the fierce rivalry clash – but suggested that in the moment, he may have crossed the line.
“That’s football. It was a derby. Emotions are high after the game,” he said.
“Sticking the boot in I think is a little bit unsportsmanlike by Connor Chapman, but that’s going to happen.
“Nestor is a very, very good player. He’s going to be targeted by opposing teams, so we’ve just got to make sure we protect him within our own team when players are getting stuck into him, potentially we get around the ref and make sure it doesn’t happen.”
Halloran admitted Adelaide would miss Irankunda’s “very exciting, dangerous” attributes in Round 4 as a home clash with Sydney FC presents on the agenda.
But he doesn’t want to see the young winger, or any other player for that matter, receiving preferential treatment from referees – contrary to the opinion of Adelaide head coach Carl Veart expressed after Saturday’s Original Rivalry.
“I don’t know. I just think referees should be treating every player equally,” he said.
“Award fouls based on their merit, not on the player.”
The team on the Official Isuzu UTE A-League podcast break down the Original Rivalry, and the Irankunda incident. Listen below or via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or where you get your podcasts.