Souness defends Neill in row over red-card tackle

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Graeme Souness, the manager of Blackburn Rovers, has defended Lucas Neill after Liverpool's Gérard Houllier branded the defender "cowardly" for the tackle which broke Jamie Carragher's leg.

Souness is angry about the verbal attack on the Australian right back following the over-the-top challenge that left Carragher facing a six-month lay-off.

Souness, a former Anfield manager himself, feels Neill's tackle has been misinterpreted by Houllier. Carragher suffered the injury following a challenge by Neill in Saturday's encounter at Ewood Park which resulted in the Australian being sent off.

Souness said - with a barb aimed at Houllier - yesterday: "You would have to have played the game to realise that these kind of things happen.

"It was reckless, but in football at this level tackles can be mistimed and misjudged. In no way is Lucas Neill a dirty player. He had no intent to injure Jamie Carragher.

"There was one bad tackle from 28 players in the whole of the 90 minutes, even if two players ended up with bad injuries," he said.

"It wasn't a dirty game, it was a competitive game, before anyone starts to create a big thing out of it. There is no issue between me and Liverpool. I have seen the tackle again on TV and it looked like a sending off to me but it wasn't malicious."

Neill has apologised to Carragher about the tackle that broke his leg - but also claims it was an honest attempt for the ball before catching the defender with the follow-through.

"It's very sad for Jamie and I feel deeply sorry for him," Neill said. "I hope he makes a speedy recovery. I also want to see him at some stage and shake his hand.

"There was no intent. I simply went to play the ball. I am an aggressive player, that's part of my game. But I also play it fairly," Neill added.

Houllier believes Lucas Neill deserves more than a three-game ban for the tackle and he is angry that Souness waited until today to offer his sympathy to Carragher.

"When the game had finished I wish Graeme Souness had come up to me and said, 'Sorry, it was a bad tackle'. But he did nothing. That really made me furious," he said. "I like to think of myself as a nice guy but in this case I am extremely unhappy with their behaviour during the incident, during the game and after the game.

"Blackburn have lost a player for three games and we have lost one for six months. You know as well as I do how important Carragher is to my team. In France there was a case where a player injured another with a bad tackle, which forced him out of the game for two months. The French FA banned the player responsible for the same length of time.

"I think Neill deserves more than three games for the way he behaved. I am gutted. To break a leg when a player is wearing shinpads takes something."

Carragher is trying to remain upbeat despite suffering the injury. "I hope I am walking again before my 10-month-old son," he said. "I am sick as I have had such a good record with injuries throughout my career and touch wood that will continue when I get over this.

"What worries you most when this happens is losing your place. That's why I have always been prepared to play even if I've had a niggle."