Neville defends Henry over handball

VALLETTA - Manchester United defender Gary Neville said it was wrong to brand former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry a cheat for handling the ball in France's controversial World Cup qualifying play-off victory over Ireland.

"To label Henry a cheat is wrong," Neville wrote in his regular column in Malta's Sunday Times.

"Everyone who has played football will know that when the ball comes up at your side, your arm can come out instinctively.

"We have all done things in football matches in the heat of the moment that we have regretted later. The referee has to spot these things."

FIFA rejected Ireland's request for a replay after Henry's actions helped France to get a 2-1 aggregate win and reach the World Cup finals in South Africa next year.