Bruno no joke in farce that was Ibrox
16 Sep 1996
RANGERS............... 3 HEARTS..................0
IN THE end, it was just another Saturday shift, I suppose, for the two men who were to influence what was perhaps the most bizarre premier-division match since the Top 10's inception 20 years ago.
Assistant referee Graeme Alison and Hearts defender Pasquale Bruno went about their business at Ibrox in entirely different ways, but their contribution to the premature overcrowding of the away dressing room bath was about the same.
When Bruno, who is beginning to demonstrate why he was considered a charismatic assassin in his Serie A days, was sent off shortly ater half-time, it was not so much the reason for his dismissal that left its effects, but his triumphal march towards the tunnel, shaking hands, hugging Paul Gascoigne, and applauding the Rangers supporters in a cynical gesture suggesting they had got him sent off.
The Italian left his team mates, who had already begun to build up resentment at what they felt was discrimination by referee Gerry Evans, seething.
For the record, I felt Bruno was given his second yellow card a bit harshly as he seemed to be trying to get past Gordon Durie to chase after Brian Laudrup, rather than committing any serious foul on the Ibrox man.
However, he had already been booked for persistent fouling of the Danish player, and it seemed only a matter of time before he took the long walk in any case.
When he took that walk, and with Rangers going two goals up, Hearts took the huff.
In no time at all, Mr Evans was hauling out cards faster than Paul Daniels.
After Bruno's dismissal came the departure of David Weir, who was maybe the most foolish of all.
Referee Evans had signalled a foul for Hearts when Dave McPherson and Weir tussled with Durie, but then Weir seemed to catch the Rangers man with the back of his arm and after Durie, who gone down in apparent agony, sprang to his feet for the familiarly childish eyeball confrontation, Weir gestured at him with a silly imitation of a head butt.
Off he went, and then there were nine.
Neil Pointon was next to get his early orders.
He was so furious at the stand-side flag man's failure to signal offside that he kicked the post in fury and hurled verbal abuse towards him.
Mr Evans then had to listen to his assistant's tale and was left with no option but to show the Englishman his second yellow card.
And then there were eight.
The only really mysterious sending-off was still to come.
Paul Ritchie, we have to assume, decided it was his turn to give Mr Alison his version of the footballer's guide to vindictive speech.
Mr Evans was called to the touchline once more, listened carefully to the complaint, and caused bedlam when he hoisted a red card into the blue air.
Down in the Tynecastle dug-out, the backroom division were roaring about in disbelief.
Four of their finest were indoors, and there were still 23 minutes to go.
Chairman Chris Robinson raced downstairs to the tehcnical area, where he had no right to be, and seemed to be telling manager Jim Jefferies the game should be stopped.
It may be he had misread the laws which make it clear that abandonment should take place when one of the teams is left with six players.
At any rate, the game continued to the end by which time one of the six substitutes used by the two teams, Ally McCoist, had added a third goal to the ones scored earlier by Durie and Gascoigne.
There are several points that need to be made about this September madness.
There were inconsistencies in Mr Evans' performance.
For example, Gordan Petric was not even spoken to late on when he committed as reckless a foul as had been seen all afternoon, and the bookings of Derek McInnes and Stefano Salvatori looked very harsh.
The referee erred in judgment and not as a result of any bias.
Rangers had claims for a penalty turned down, so did Hearts.
Rangers had a good looking goal disallowed, Hearts had some impressive counter-attacks stymied because of debatable offside calls.
It should be said at this point that Rangers were not entirely innocent.
Durie, in particular, was very fortunate indeed not to be booked at the least when he squared up to Weir.
No one in the Hearts camp was saying anything afterwards.
Maybe that was just as well.
Rangers manager Walter Smith diplomatically avoided any comment on the great farce.
Next League match: Rangers - Kilmarnock (a).
Hearts - Motherwell (h).
"It is a situation we don't often encounter," was the understated response of Rangers manager Walter Smith when asked what it was like to play against seven men"
Taken from the Herald