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.”
Ghana captain Andre Ayew was not so generous in his assessment however, arguing differently.
“Everyone was stood there watching and waiting for them to give the ball back – they didn’t give it back and then goal,” the Black Stars’ goalscorer in Yaounde said.
“It’s very petty on their part and I am disappointed in them, but it’s like that with some teams.”
French coach Neveu believes that Ghana deserve little sympathy, claiming they 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 can’t really see where there is a problem.”
He added that he felt that the Black Stars, four-time African champions, 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 stated.
“There is a referee there to blow the whistle if play needs to stop. The referee saw that the player was faking it, so you can’t be making me responsible for not being fair-play – it’s 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, who is currently on loan at Reading, admitted.
He was less happy though about 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.
There was a different reaction from Ghana captain 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.
“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 knowing that a win could be enough to see them progress to the second round, either as Group B runners-up (depending on the result between Morocco and Gabon) or as one of the best third-placed teams.