Players stand up for Chris Payne

SYDNEY FC and Wellington players leapt to the defence of sky blues’ teenage striker Chris Payne after he found himself the centre of the A-League’s own handball controversy following Saturday night’s preliminary final.

Payne came under fire from Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert after Sydney’s 4-2 win at the Sydney Football Stadium, in which he came off the bench to score twice to help his side into the grand final.

The young striker’s second goal, which put Sydney up 2-1, appeared to be scored off his forearm but was allowed by referee Peter Green.

Herbert labelled the goal “three times worse” than other famous handball incidents in world football such as Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal and Thierry Henry’s more recent “Hand of Frog” goal for France.

He also questioned Payne’s ethics and professionalism but fellow players took a more understanding view of the incident.

Strike partner Alex Brosque said the goal was clearly accidental after Payne missed an attempted header. “It definitely didn’t look like he intentionally did it,” Brosque said. “It’s just one of those things and we still got a lot of other goals anyway.”

Phoenix players were furious when the goal stood but were later more keen to direct their criticism at officials rather than Payne.

Captain Andrew Durante was frank when asked if players had a duty to put their hand up in those situations.

“It’s a tough one. What’s he going to do – turn around and say “no don’t give the goal?” I don’t think that’s ever happened in world football,” Durante said.

“I don’t think you can point the finger at the players, you do whatever you can to score, but the referee and linesman need to be good enough to pick up on it.” Phoenix keeper Liam Reddy said he had nothing against Payne.

“If you talk to any Phoenix player in the same situation I’m sure he’d be doing exactly the same thing,” he said.



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