The Phoenix are doing their best to move on from "Jeronimo-gate" and insist they have not been told to pull their heads in by A-League officials.
The club yesterday said it "respectfully accepted" Football Federation Australia's decision to uphold Ben Sigmund's red card suspension while Adelaide United striker Jeronimo Neumann escaped unpunished.
It was a dramatic U-turn from Monday, when coach Ricki Herbert blasted referee Jarred Gillett as incompetent and reiterated captain Andrew Durante's belief that Neumann was a diver.
Video evidence and public opinion are overwhelmingly in the Phoenix's favour.
However, a club spokesman said the softened stance was triggered by a desire to avoid continued distractions ahead of Monday's visit to Melbourne Victory, and not the result of a telling off from across the Tasman.
The spokesman said messages of support had flooded in from rival league clubs and Herbert and Durante stood by their comments.
Phoenix general manager David Dome said: "The correct process had been followed and, so far as the club is concerned, the matter has been laid to rest."
Neumann, who scored two goals in Saturday's 3-1 win at Hindmarsh Stadium, was reportedly close to tears as he denied the diving claims yesterday.
"No, no [I did not dive]," Neumann said. "I felt the player grab my T-shirt and I went down. He clipped me on my ankle and I felt like it was part of the game. He was the last man, so that's a fair call [to send Sigmund off]."
However, there were mixed messages coming out of the Adelaide camp, with coach John Kosmina basically admitting Neumann was guilty of play-acting.
"Some players dive, some players don't," Kosmina said. "Some players milk fouls, some players don't. It's part and parcel of the game and it's part and parcel of sport. It's not cheating."
He then turned the spotlight on Sigmund for poor defending.
"Ben Sigmund made two mistakes," Kosmina said.
"He let his player get the wrong side of him and when he tried to recover, he put his hands on him.
"You can't do that. It's as simple as that. If he never did that, there might have been a completely different scenario."
Durante, who called Neumann a "cheat" in a fiery post-match interview, is likely to learn his fate next week as the league conducts an internal investigation into whether he has brought the game into disrepute.
He is free to play against the Victory but could cop a fine.
The whole saga has left a sour taste and the league has, basically, given players the green light to have a go at conning the officials.
League boss Damien de Bohun penned a column backing Gillett and arguing the match review panel's job was not to "re-referee" matches.
"It's a fundamental tenet of football that the referee's decision is final, except in cases of an obvious error that can be proven by irrefutable evidence not available to the referee at the time of the decision," de Bohun said. "Put simply, the MRP process exists to correct patently wrong decisions that no-one can argue about."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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