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----- Steven Fletcher
30 of 060 Christian Nade 38 ;Gary Glen 92 SC A

Christophe Berra defends role in Steven Fletcher red card

Graham Spiers

Mixu Paatelainen, the Hibernian manager, yesterday accused Christophe Berra, the Heart of Midlothian defender, of deliberately engineering the sending off of Steven Fletcher after Hibernian lost 2-0 in a tousy Home-coming Scottish Cup fourth-round tie at Easter Road.

Goals from Christian Nade and Gary Glen gave Hearts their victory, though the match was overshadowed later by the row surrounding Fletcher’s red card, which was shown by the referee, Craig Thomson, after 30 minutes.

Paatelainen was adamant that Berra has exaggerated the force of Fletcher’s tackle, and even accused the Hearts defender of “leaping like a brown trout” at the moment of impact to get the Hibernian player sent off.

“For me it [Fletcher’s tackle] was not a red card - in fact I don’t think it was even a yellow card,” Paatelainen said. “But it was the turning point in the game. Fletcher doesn’t catch Berra at all in the challenge, but Berra jumps like a brown trout and makes things look worse for Fletcher and got him sent off.

“I don’t want to go into the referee’s decisions – it is a very difficult job. But, for me, Fletcher got sent off for nothing. I’ve seen the television pictures of it and Fletcher’s foot touched the ground before he caught anyone.”

For most observers, the television replays of the incident did not bear out Paatelainen’s interpretation, but the Hibernian manager would not be swayed in his opinion. With Fletcher’s dismissal, Paatelainen believed that his team had been unfairly robbed of a chance of victory.

“When we had 11 men we totally dominated the game – we passed the ball well and were by far the better team,” Paatelainen said. “We could have – and should have – scored before the red card. So I’ve said to my team that I was delighted with the way they were playing.

“The Fletcher tackle was nothing. Sometimes there are challenges like that, when strikers go in late on defenders, but when it happens you can see when the striker goes for the ankle or tries to go over the ball. But in this situation it was nothing like that at all. Fletcher’s foot touched the ground before Berra, and I don’t even think it was worth a yellow card.

“OK, if maybe some feel there was too much power [from Fletcher], then maybe a yellow card, but definitely not a red.”

Berra was later forced to defend his own actions on the field, having fallen to the ground and writhed around for a few moments immediately following the Fletcher challenge. “I had to jump to avoid a more serious injury,” the Hearts captain said. “I managed to toe-poke the ball away from him before he dived in.”

Csaba Laszlo, the Hearts coach, was thrilled with his team’s win,and twittered almost uncontrollably later about the derby triumph. But whether Laszlo agreed with Paatelainen that the Fletcher red card was unfair remained unclear.

“I saw the replay – it was clear on the television – and you cannot comment on the referee’s decision,” Laszlo said. “I’m saying nothing about it. I can understand, if you lose 2-0 at home, that they [Hibernian] might search for something to say.

“There was aggression on some of my players too, like what happened to Ruben Palazuelos. But the referee was one of the best I’ve seen – and I don’t mean for the red card – in such a game as this.”

In the fifth round draw of the cup yesterday, Hearts’ reward for their win was a home game against Falkirk. Celtic will face either Peterhead or Queen’s Park, while Rangers, if they beat St Johnstone tomorrow, will face an away tie against either Forfar Athletic or Forres Mechanics. The ties will be played on February 7 and 8.

Taken from

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