Adelaide boss’s plea to refs after Irankunda sees red against Victory

Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United drew 1-1 in a fiery affair at AAMI Park on Saturday night.

Adelaide United coach Carl Veart has called for Isuzu UTE A-League referees to follow through on their promises to protect creative players, in the wake of Nestory Irankunda’s red card late in United’s 1-1 draw away to Melbourne Victory.

Irankunda received a second yellow card for an angry reaction towards referee Alex King after tangling with Victory forward Chris Ikonomidis, and had to be dragged into the dressing room by teammates as the final seconds of the game threatened to explode.

Veart admitted that Irankunda has to learn to control his frustration more effectively, but also needed better protection.

“Nestory has to be better, we’ve been working with him on his frustration and learning to control it better,” Veart said.

REACTION: Reds legend calls for Irankunda protection after send-off

“But it doesn’t help when the first yellow card comes when a Melbourne Victory player is grabbing him but Nestory gets the yellow card.

“The second one is a clear foul that wasn’t given – I asked Alex (King) why and he said he’d told Nestory that he needs to be stronger.

“This is a young Australian player who we hope will have a big career and referees keep telling us they’ll protect good players but I didn’t see any protection of Nestory.”

Veart queried whether the media focus on Irankunda, who has featured in promotional campaigns for club and league, might need to be scaled back.

“At times we’re putting him in front of the media too much and we have to protect him,” Veart said. “He’s still learning and needs time to develop.”

Victory coach Tony Popovic appeared to step in and try to calm Irankunda as he left the pitch, and said he understood the young star’s emotions.

“I’ve been there as a young player and you feel like the world has ended (with a red card),” Popovic said. In that moment it’s a split-second decision and I didn’t want him to do something he might regret. I was just trying to calm him down before he went off.”

Popovic praised his own team for their football, even though their domination of much of the game wasn’t reflected in the scoreline.

“We had a lot of chances in an outstanding display,” he said. “Even with 10 men (after Roderick Miranda was sent off) we had opportunities, the boys were fantastic. The only thing missing was three points.”

Popovic declared his dissatisfaction with Victory’s own red card after Miranda was sent off for two fouls on Irankunda. “The second is a yellow card but the first it’s debatable if it’s even a foul and it’s definitely not a yellow card,” he said.