Ref boss blows the whistle on Nix red

Finals-chasing Wellington Phoenix are not the only ones who believe they were hard done by during Sunday’s clash with Melbourne Heart.

Football Federation Australia director of referees Ben Wilson has confirmed that World Cup-bound whistle-blower Ben Williams blundered when he sent defender Ben Sigmund packing in the 2-2 stalemate.

Sigmund was dismissed on 33 minutes for a second bookable offence – a lazy lunge on Harry Kewell - leaving an already inexperienced backline exposed to an increasingly desperate Heart attack.

However, the red card should have only levelled the odds had the home team’s Patrick Kisnorbo been rightfully dismissed on 18 minutes for a handball.

In a statement to media Wilson said Williams "missed a deliberate handball incident involving Melbourne Heart defender Patrick Kisnorbo, which should have resulted in a penalty kick to Wellington and a red card.”

He added: "In the same match I believe the second yellow card issued to Ben Sigmund for breaking up a promising attack was an incorrect call, albeit not completely clear cut."

But Wilson backed the penalty awarded to Kewell, which gave the home side the equaliser just five minutes after the 10-man Phoenix had taken the lead.

The other major controversy of the round – referee Peter O’Leary’s decision to red card Brisbane’s Besart Berisha for a rash lunge in the league leaders 1-1 draw with Sydney FC on Friday night – was also defended.

"Opinions will always be divided on some decisions and in these instances it is important to uphold the notion that the match officials are responsible for making decisions on a football field and they get the majority of decisions right," Wilson said.

Williams is attending a World Cup workshop in Europe this weekend and so is unlikely to suffer any fall-out from the incident-packed Heart-Nix game.

Phoenix are currently sitting in eighth spot and Coach Ernie Merrick slammed the match review system in the aftermath of the deadlock which did no favours for either teams' top six aspirations.

"I thought the two yellow cards were very tough on Ben (Sigmund), especially the second one, and the penalty made me think it doesn't get much tougher than this” he said post-match.

"But the boys dug deep and fought hard and what doesn't kill you gives you a draw."

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