Gabon coach Patrice Neveu says he has no problem with his players ignoring the unwritten rules of fair play to score a late equaliser against Ghana at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Ghana players and staff were livid when Gabon did not return the ball to them after they had put the ball into touch with a Black Stars player on the ground in the 87th minute.
From the throw in Gabon’s Jim Allevinah scored an equaliser to cancel out Andre Ayew’s 18th minute opener and ensure Friday’s Group B game ended at 1-1.
“I think the equaliser was totally logical for this match and we don’t need to kick up a huge fuss,” Neveu said after the match.
“I am the national coach and so I have to take responsibility but football is a game with rules.”
The French coach pointed out that the Ghana players had been wasting time before the incident.
“The Ghanaian players were starting to slow down and their action could be construed negatively but there is a referee who is there to manage the game.
“Fifteen minutes earlier they kicked the ball out of play and you all saw that the goalkeeper took a really long time to restart play and so he got a yellow card.
“I am sure you will agree with me that we could all see they were playing for time.
“My players played by the rules, it led to a goal and I cant really see where there is a problem.”
He added that he felt that Ghana should take some of the blame for his players deciding to ignore fair play etiquette.
“There is a referee who applies the rules and (Ghana) were lacking in fair-play until they scored and were constantly interrupting play,” he pointed out.
“There is a referee who is there to blow the whistle if play needs to stop – the referee saw that the player was faking it, so you cant be making me responsible for not being fair-play, its not possible.
“It’s too easy. Ghana needs to take some responsibility.”
Different views from Ghana
Despite the angry reaction from the majority of the Ghana players and technical staff defender Baba Rahman was a little more understanding about the situation.
“I don’t blame them because it was nearly 90 minutes and on 90 minutes I don’t think many teams would play fair play,” the Chelsea player on loan at Reading admitted.
He was less happy about the Gabon players trying to shake their hands at the final whistle.
“At the end some Gabonese players tried to shake hands with our players and if you don’t play fair play during the game why do you want to shake my hand after the game?” he asked.
However there was a different reaction from Ghana captain Andre Ayew, who was visibly annoyed when he spoke as the Man of the Match after the game.
“We put it into touch because one of our men was on the floor – the fair play rules in football say that you give us the ball back – it’s simple,” the former Swansea forward said.
“Everyone was stood there watching and waiting for them to give the ball back – they didn’t give it back they didn’t give it back and then goal.
“It’s very petty on their part and I am disappointed in them but it’s like that with some teams.
“We will go until the end we will do our utmost to win the next match against Comoros. I hope that we can do enough to get to the next round.”
Ghana go into their final game against Comoros on Tuesday know that a win could be enough to see them progress to the second round, either as runners-up in Group B depending on the result between Morocco and Gabon or as one of the best third-placed teams.