Essien slams ref after suffering yellow peril

June 23, 2006

A heartbroken Michael Essien slammed German referee Markus Merk for a 'ridiculous' early booking which will keep the Chelsea star out of Ghana's second-round clash with Brazil.

The 23-year-old midfielder up his second yellow card of the tournament when he slid into Claudio Reyna just five minutes into the Black Stars' historic 2-1 victory over the United States.

Even USA coach Bruce Arena expressed his sympathy for Essien, claiming the tackle 'actually was good', but nothing could ease the midfielder's pain after the match.

'This is one of the worst moments of my career but what can I do,' Essien said. 'I am very sad because I don't think I deserved that yellow card. I think it is ridiculous.'

Merk, the 2004 and 2005 world referee of the year, looked far from impressive this time out as he also awarded Ghana an unjustified penalty kick in the second minute of injury time at the end of the first half.

It was just as controversial as Essien's booking, which the midfielder branded as 'unfair'.

'The referee should have been a little more fair but that is part of the game,' Essien conceded. 'I have to take it now.'

The brave midfielder also claimed he had no problems keeping his concentration after the yellow card.

'I said to myself I should let it go and play football and help my team to win,' he added. 'That is what I did so I am happy about the victory tonight.'

While a nation - or rather a whole continent - was celebrating a moment of glory, Essien was left down-hearted.

'At the final whistle I was happy at first but in the second moment I felt very sad. I need some rest now,' he said.

Ghana skipper Stephen Appiah, who earned man-of-the-match honours, admitted he felt 'very bad' for his friend.

'We are very sad to miss him because he is one of our leaders,' Appiah said. 'Earlier I was talking to him and he said 'Ah, Stephen, we have to show Brazil (what we can do) because they have something that belongs to us', so it is very sad he won't be playing against Brazil.'

Ghana coach Ratomir Dujkovic refused to be downhearted despite the loss of his midfield general.

'What to do about it?,' he asked. 'We have lost Essien but in a tournament you always have to have substitutes. We will have someone replacing him.'

USA boss Arena used the controversial booking to launch a stinging attack on the new rules.

'The insistence on yellow cards is crazy,' Arena said. 'It is taking good players out of the tournament. The mandate to show yellow cards has gone overboard.'

And he added: 'Essien out of the next game is unfair. The tackle was actually good. I feel bad for Essien. He will miss the next match. He is a great player.'