Miller criticises challenge on Jets keeper

Newcastle boss Scott Miller has criticised an “outrageous” tackle by Sydney’s Shane Smeltz which has left Jets ‘keeper Mark Birighitti with a serious facial injury.

Birighitti copped a boot in the face from Smeltz in a challenge, forcing the gloveman off as blood streamed from his face.

It’s understood Birighitti will have surgery on his teeth in a Newcastle hospital on Saturday night to repair the damage.

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Miller was furious about the incident, his mood only worsening after Alex Brosque scored in the last minute to hand the Sky Blues a 1-0 win.

“That’s nothing short of outrageous that challenge if you look at [Birighitti’s] mouth,” an angry Miller said.

“That’s not on, in life or in football. Irrespective if it’s a mistake or unintentional, it’s not right.

Mark Birighitti suffered a nasty facial injury against Sydney FC.

“I’m not blaming [Smeltz], it’s a consequence of football and the actions relevant to it. But it’s about the decision making. There’s a borderline competitive side to a football match and then there’s outrageous and reckless,” the Jets boss added.

“We need to be sensible in our challenges regarding goalkeepers and head injuries. We’ve seen the outcome of Petr Cech and numerus other goalkeepers, and the consequences far outweigh teeth and a win.

“It’s someone’s livelihood of any challenge to the head. We need to be clear of that one.”

Sky Blues coach Graham Arnold said he didn’t see the incident properly but admitted Smeltz was “distraught in the dressing room” at full-time.

“He [Smeltz] said after it happened his head was gone. He’d wished we had another sub so he could have come off,” Arnold revealed.

“It’s not good that it happens to anyone. Let’s hope he [Birighitti] recovers quickly. He was brave coming out the way he did.

“The ball was there [to be won]…it’s the competitive nature of sport.”

While disappointed not to have taken anything from the match after defending so stoutly throughout, Miller said he couldn’t fault his player’s effort.

“I’m happy with every single one of them. The commitment they’ve shown throughout the pre-season has been outstanding.

“It’s three points from six so far. It’s disappointing to lose at home but we’re making steps. We can’t be measured now but at the end of the season.”

Miller is hopeful a knee injury which forced Labinot Haliti off inside 15 minutes isn’t too serious, revealing there was no structural damage suffered by the winger.

The Jets are at home again next Friday, with champions Melbourne Victory heading to Hunter Stadium.