Referee defends World Cup red card for Rooney

LONDON, July 4, 2006 (AFP) – The referee who gave Wayne Rooney a fateful red card in the weekend match that saw England crash out of the World Cup has defended his decision.

Speaking to the Times newspaper in Frankfurt, Horacio Elizondo confirmed that he sent off Rooney during Saturday’s quarter-final match with Portugal for lashing Cristiano Ronaldo with his boot and catching him in the groin.

"It was violent play and therefore he got a red card," said the Argentine referee, who went on to deny that an on-pitch protest from Ronaldo had swayed him.

"People can say what they want, but this had absolutely no influence," he said.

"For me it was a clear red card, so I didn’t react to the Portuguese players. There was pushing and shoving on boh sides, but for me it wasn’t a reason to caution anybody."

Overall, Elizondo said he was "very satisfied with the spirit of fair play" in the match that saw England defeated 3-1 on penalty points, and that England coach Sven Goran Eriksson had congratulated him for an "excellent performance".

"He said that I was right to send off Rooney because it was rough play."