Belfast Telegraph

Newcastle boss Steve McClaren: No malice in Aleksandar Mitrovic red-card offence

Newcastle head coach Steve McClaren leapt to the defence of striker Aleksandar Mitrovic after he was sent off just five games into his career on Tyneside.

The 20-year-old Serbian, who was booked in each of his first two appearances for the club, was dismissed by referee Andre Marriner after catching midfielder Francis Coquelin 16 minutes into the Magpies' 1-0 home defeat by Arsenal.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger, who accused McClaren's men of taking a "physical" approach to a game in which they also had six players booked, said the former Anderlecht man had to go, but his opposite number did not agree.

McClaren said: "[Moussa] Sissoko had a similar one just before, and that was given a yellow.

"I've seen it over and over - it's come over his head, he's looking at the ball, there is no intent, there is no maliciousness, it's just coming down and he's just stamped on his foot.

"It definitely was not dangerous. It was clumsy, but I have seen plenty of clumsy challenges. Football is a contact sport, it's a physical sport and we cannot take that away.

"And I don't think any of the tackles - and don't get me wrong, the seven yellows and red card... It was not a dirty game and we've not kicked them off the park.

"They were fouls and I think the ref has reacted too harshly with every one of them - a bit too soon, a bit too rash."

Asked if the club would appeal, McClaren added: "I hope I can. No doubt we will lose it."

Wenger, however, was of a different opinion, although he admitted Mitrovic had perhaps been slightly unfortunate.

He said: "Honestly during the game, I didn't see it. But I have just seen it again on television and unfortunately it was a red card. He didn't play the ball at all.

"I think yes, the referee did all right, but Newcastle maybe wanted to stop us from playing, from moving the ball quickly to stop our game - they tried that from the start on.

"Mitrovic went a bit overboard. It was maybe a bit unlucky as well, I don't know - did he do it on purpose or not? I don't know.

"I must say that Newcastle decided from the start on to make the game quite physical, and we had to keep our nerve and not become a little bit aggressive as well, so I thought we did that well."

Despite their numerical advantage, Arsenal needed a 52nd-minute own goal from Fabricio Coloccini, who unwittingly deflected Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's shot past the helpless Tim Krul, to secure the points.

They dominated the game, but all too often found a well-organised defence - and behind it Krul - in their way.

Wenger said: "You play away from home 11 against 10, you know that they play 15 yards deeper. You play 10 against nine in the final third, the crowd is behind their team - that puts pressure on the referee - and then it's very difficult. We didn't find the space.

"They defended well - they showed why they didn't concede at Manchester United as well - and in the end, we are happy to have the three points and to win 1-0."


From Belfast Telegraph