Fighting Phoenix players await fate

Last updated 11:51 19/08/2012

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Three Wellington Phoenix stars are nervously awaiting their fate in India today after an ugly brawl marred the club's pre-season "friendly" against the Newcastle Jets on Saturday.

Ben Sigmund and Manny Muscat and Newcastle's Tiago were all sent off after a fight broke out in the 25th minute of the game in Weston, New South Wales.

The Newcastle Herald reported that punches were thrown and players were tackled to the ground during the bench-clearing brawl which took rookie referee Tim McGilchrist five minutes to restore order.

The Phoenix were then reduced to eight men in the 63rd minute when captain Andrew Durante was given his marching orders for lashing out at Newcastle's James Brown.

Newcastle went on to win 3-1.

Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert will be sweating on today's developments at Football Federation Australia headquarters.

An FFA spokesman told The Dominion Post that A-League officials would review footage of the match today before takingappropriate action.

Sigmund, Muscat and Durante - three of the Phoenix's most influential players - are facing at least a two-match suspension for the red cards, and it is unlikely they will be able to serve their bans during the four-match tour of India.

The FFA spokesman said it was more likely they would instead be forced to sit out the pre-season games against league newcomers Western Sydney Wanderers at Christchurch's AMI Stadium on September 23 and ASB Premiership outfit Manawatu at Palmerston North's Memorial Park on September 29.

That would free the trio to play in the season opener against Sydney FC at Westpac Stadium on October 6, unless the FFA decide they are guilty of violent misconduct and deserve lengthier bans.

The Phoenix flew from Sydney to New Delhi yesterday and weren't able to be reached for comment. Herbert refused to speak to local media after the game but Jets coach Gary van Egmond attributed the incident to players competing hard for spots.

"You are not making excuses, but that is the eagerness of the players," he said.

"They have players looking to gain a contract and fighting for positions in the squad. We are in the same boat.

"We have a number of players wanting to get into the first 11. It was a bit difficult for the referee as well. He is an inexperienced referee and it was a difficult game for him to officiate first off. All in all, it was not what you want to see but we will learn from that."

The Phoenix were 1-0 up through Alex Smith before the first half incident, but Craig Goodwin (two goals) and Marko Jesic capitalised on Newcastle's numerical advantage.


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- The Dominion Post


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