Wanderers star Tomi Juric has hit back at claims by Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold that two Western Sydney Wanderers FC players “high-fived” as Ali Abbas was carried off injured in Saturday night’s heated Sydney Derby.
Abbas ruptured both the anterior cruciate and medial ligament in his left knee in a heavy challenge with Iacopo La Rocca in the 1-1 draw, with the Iraqi set for more than a year on the sidelines.
The incident has sparked a war of words between the two fierce rivals over the last couple of days, with Arnold voicing his disapproval again on Tuesday.
"The same player (La Rocca) nailed him twice in three minutes and on the wide angle vision, when Ali's getting carried off by the physio and the doctor, two players high-fived," the Sky Blues boss told reporters.
"…It's a huge loss to lose a player for 14-15 months. It's a huge loss for a player not to be able to represent his country at the Asian Cup here and it's a big challenge for the kid's career to try and come back."
Arnold was also incensed La Rocca wasn’t cautioned for the tackle, or consequently charged by the match review panel.
But Juric stood up for his team-mate, adamant it was a fair challenge and says the injury was just an unfortunate accident.
“It’s a derby. At the end of the day you’re going to go into tackles and try and win the ball. At the time I don’t think anyone realized the extent of the injury until after the game,” Juric told www.a-league.com.au on Tuesday.
“I thought it was a fair challenge, that’s how it looked on the field, obviously we found out the consequences after. No one’s happy to injure someone to that extent but that’s football, these kind of things happen.”
Juric, who was at the launch of the Asian Cup trophy’s arrival at Bondi Beach, said there’s no way any player in his side would go out to intentionally hurt another professional.
“Iacopo is not the type of bloke that would go out to intentionally hurt someone. If you look at the tackle, both players went for a ball,” the Socceroo striker said.
“It was a 50-50 and it’s just unfortunate that Abbas came off a lot worse from that challenge.
“I feel very sorry for him, what he has to go through now will be a very difficult period and it’s a mental game for him now. I wish him all the best and hope he gets better quickly.”
Having scored in both of the Wanderers’ last two matches, Juric is in strong form personally and believes his side’s exceptional performance in the derby shows they are about to catch fire in the Hyundai A-League.
Wanderers host Brisbane Roar FC on Wednesday night in a crucial clash, with the winner to jump up into the top six.
“Things are starting to turn for us and it’s only a matter of time that the goals start coming,” Juric added.
“Against Sydney we played some of the best football we have in a long time, if we keep that up teams will have a lot of trouble against us.”