Paraguay striker Federico Santander has been cleared of any serious damage from Winston Reid's vicious tackle – much to the relief of New Zealand Football boss Michael Glading.
Santander left Westpac Stadium on a stretcher after Paraguay's 2-0 win over the All Whites on Tuesday night and there were initital concerns that Reid had broken Santander's kneecap.
But X-rays later cleared the 19-year-old of a break.
"The good news is that the damage is not as bad as feared and the player flew home with the Paraguay team," Glading said.
"That has been relayed to Winston who I know was very concerned and regretted his actions. So I'm absolutely over the moon to find that the player has travelled home and the injury was not as bad as feared."
Santander plays for French club Toulouse.
Wellington referee Jamie Cross sent Reid off for the late, studs-up tackle.
All Whites coach Ricki Herbert raised eyebrows afterwards by saying he was disappointed with Cross's decision, rather than Reid's brain snap.
Glading said he thought Herbert's comments were borne out of frustration.
"In the heat of the battle post event but perhaps, like Winston, who might regret his tackle, I think Ricki might regret some of those comments."
Cross did not want to enter a slanging match with Herbert when contacted yesterday, but NZF referee development officer Ken Wallace said New Zealand's No 3 ranked whistleblower had made the right call.
"I thought the decision to send off the New Zealand player was a clear red card offence," Wallace said.
"The player lunged and that kind of tackle should have no part in the game. I thought it was an excellent decision."
Herbert questioned Cross sending Reid off because it was in the 90th minute of a "friendly" match.
But Wallace said that was completely irrelevant. "No matter what game you referee, player safety is always the No 1 concern and it doesn't matter whether it's a competitive or a friendly. If tackles are made that endanger the safety of an opponent, then they should be given a red card, no matter what the state of the game is."
It was an eventful night for Cross, who also awarded Paraguay a penalty for Ben Sigmund's challenge on Edgar Benitez.
Wallace watched the game on TV so was wary of judging that decision but said: "The referee was close, he was quite clear about it so it seemed to be fine."
- The Dominion Post