Football: Furore follows Hirst's red card: Derek Hodgson hears Sheffield Wednesday's list of grievances after a defeat in the Uefa Cup in Germany

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The Independent Online
A SHARP dichotomy of opinion on what constitutes violent play emerged yesterday in the aftermath of Sheffield Wednesday's 3-1 defeat in the first leg of their Uefa Cup second-round tie in Kaiserslautern on Tuesday.

David Hirst, the England striker who was sent off, has one opinion; the German team, the French referee and the official Uefa observer another. Yes, it sounds like Maastricht all over again.

Wednesday's player-manager, Trevor Francis, confirmed: 'The referee has told us that he will report that Hirst was sent off for kicking a player. The Uefa observer supports that decision. He now faces a three-match suspension, which is very unfortunate.'

Hirst, so furious after the match that he was wisely shepherded away from the media, said yesterday: 'I shall watch the video closely. I have nothing to feel guilty about. I remember brushing past him (the defender Marco Haber) and he went down. I did nothing to warrant a red card. Apart from a little shove I never touched him.'

My instant impression of the incident confirmed Hirst's account, but he still stands condemned out of his own mouth. Continental referees would see 'a little shove' as violent play.

Kaiserslautern insisted that Haber was attacked, while admitting privately that he made a meal of it. Rainer Zobel, the Kaiserslautern coach, conceded that 'play-acting' has become an epidemic in the Bundesliga. 'I'm trying to to stamp it out,' he said, 'but it is not easy because it is normal practice here for players to fall over far too quickly.'

The referee Joel Quiniou booked Marcel Witeczek for a dive in the area, and also warned Thomas Vogel for a similar attempt to win another penalty on Tuesday.

Wednesday would be better advised to criticise the referee for his award of a penalty against Viv Anderson who, video evidence suggests, made a clean tackle; even if the tackle was a foul it seemingly occurred outside the area.

Francis summed up the first leg by rightly praising his team's attacking policy, and claiming: 'With 11 men we would have won'. They can still win the return leg, without Hirst, for Kaiserslautern looked fragile even in front of their own raucous supporters who, with the aid of drums, red flares and their own version of the Grand March from Aida, managed to make their compact stadium look like a set from Gotterdammerung.

Wednesday could have Peter Shirtliff and Roland Nilsson fit for the second leg on 4 November. The Germans will still be without Stefan Kuntz and Jan Eriksson, and it would be ironic if Hirst's finely executed goal in the first leg, the away goal, proves decisive.

The Owls should swallow their anger, forget Tuesday, and rely on a little native chutzpah; only a newspaper in their county could refer to Sachin Tendulkar as 'the former Yorkshire batsman'.

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