Durban - Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter defended his team in the aftermath of their ill-tempered clash against Golden Arrows, and also took a swipe at referee Lwandile Mfiki.
Chiefs, who are seven points clear at the top of the PSL standings, played to a goalless draw against Arrows in Durban on Saturday.
Several Amakhosi players and members of the coaching staff reacted furiously to a straight red card for Reneilwe Letsholonyane, with play held up for several minutes as the official became the centre of attraction.
VIDEO: Fan assaults referee with a vuvuzela
Mfiki, who had earlier ruled out a legitimate Lehlohonolo Majoro goal, as the player was called off-side, was again in the spotlight moments later when a vuvuzela-yielding fan breached the Moses Mabhida Stadium security and struck him once. The unknown man was then caught by marshals and escorted from the field.
“I thought the referee’s decision was a very poor one, which could have been game-changing,” Baxter said afterwards.
“I’ve been told that the goal was a decent goal as well, so you’ve got to understand that the players see that and they also get upset.
"But do I condone any bad behaviour by players towards referees? No I don’t.
"We expect our players to be a bit bigger than that.”
The reaction of the log leaders further fuelled the furious crowd, but Baxter leapt to the defence of his players, two of whom - Majoro and captain Itumeleng Khune - were booked for their protestation.
“I don’t think in that situation you can say you're happy with this or happy with that,” Baxter said.
“You are emotional. Khune ran the length of the pitch to calm our players down. He said, ‘Guys calm down, don’t let the referee affect you’.
“The referee for some reason saw that as insulting. I think he did a good captain’s job.
"Was I impressed by our bench? No, I think you’ve got to keep yourself under control, but a red card in that situation for one of our best players was a massive blow.”
Both Baxter and opposite number Manqoba Mngqithi agreed that Letsholonyane’s 33rd minute tackle on Tshepo Liphoko should have received a yellow card at most.
The Arrows coach was involved in some heated exchanges with his Chiefs counterpart over the decision and they did not shake hands straight after the game, although Baxter did accept a later apology.
“We have to be more professional.” Mngqithi said.
“The red card was uncalled for, and maybe the referee was under some pressure because I had made a lot of statements from the side that may have made him think it was time to try and stamp his authority.
“I did not handle myself the way I normally do and ended up exchanging words with Stuart, which was not very professional.
"I would like to apologise to him if that affected him in any way. It was in the heat of the moment.”