Soccer: Lochhead lucky to stay on the field

By Michael Brown

Tony Lochhead. Photo / Getty Images
Tony Lochhead. Photo / Getty Images

No one could work out what was happening, least of all the referee who appeared to brandish two yellow cards to Tony Lochhead in New Zealand's 2-1 win over Papua New Guinea yesterday but didn't dismiss him from the field.

The report card later showed later skipper Tommy Smith with a yellow but this only raised more questions about how four officials got it so wrong. The only bright spot was that it didn't really affect the outcome of the game.

"I was just trying to get out of the way of the ball," Lochhead said. "I guess the referee thought it was handball and awarded a penalty. Luckily we had scored a second goal.

"I'm not too sure what happened [with the first]. I'm not sure if it was for someone else. We will find out, I guess."

The upshot is Lochhead received two yellows, should have been sent off and will be suspended for tomorrow's match against the Solomon Islands.

He was booked in the 45th minute for a clumsy challenge and then shown another when adjudged to have handled the ball in the box, which PNG converted from the spot.

"Didn't see it," coach Ricki Herbert said, following the Arsene Wenger school of diplomacy. "I'm not reffing the game."

The standard of refereeing at the Oceanaia Nations Cup has been mixed and New Zealand's own Chris Kerr was at the centre of controversy when he dismissed two New Caledonia players in their 4-3 defeat to Tahiti on Sunday.

Most games also finish prematurely - PNG were denied four minutes yesterday - because the clock isn't being stopped for drinks breaks.

It's just one of the many challenges the All Whites face in Honiara.

Lochhead is perhaps more used to the conditions than most, given he was recently married and honeymooned on Rarotonga, but he's struggling like the rest of his teammates.

"It's not ideal preparations because you are probably sitting down in the sun rather than running around," he said. "I guess you get a little acclimatised but I had a few days back in Wellington and you bounce back to reality. Thirty-nine degrees is a bit warmer than Raro was."

Lochhead is regarded as one of the best athletes in the New Zealand side and was good in the first half as he got up and down the field and delivered dangerous crosses into the box. It was reminiscent of his first season at the Wellington Phoenix which earned him a trial with Middlesbrough.

Lochhead is likely to be replaced for tomorrow's game against the Solomon Islands by Auckland City's Ian Hogg, who was good against both Honduras and El Salvador recently.

There's little resting on the match, with New Zealand already through to the semifinals, but Herbert won't want to take too many risks with players who already have bookings. Especially with unpredictable referees.

- APNZ

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