For once, Max Rushden was lost for words.
The Stan Sport football presenter was put on the spot by fellow Brit Mark Pougatch after Rushden asked Chelsea assistant coach Tanya Oxtoby whether she told her players “to work on the dark arts” of the game.
“Max, why are you asking an Australian about the dark arts of sport?” Pougatch inquired following Manchester City’s 1-0 Champions League win over Atletico Madrid.
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“What are you possibly inferring?”
Former Socceroos captain Craig Foster warned Rushden to be careful with his response.
And, with Sandpapergate still fresh in the memory, he was.
“I’m saying nothing, I want dual citizenship,” Rushden responded.
Champions League highlights: Manchester City vs Atlético de Madrid
It was a humorous exchange after a hard fought first leg of a heavyweight quarterfinal showdown in Manchester.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico played its usual cagey game before Kevin De Bruyne broke the deadlock with a cool finish after some Phil Foden magic.
There was also the usual dose of Simeone-inspired “gamesmanship” – or, as Rushden put it, “s-housery” if you’re less polite.
For the record, Australian coach Oxtoby was on board with the tactics.
“Yeah the darker arts, I like that,” she said when asked about the Simeone method.
“It’s part of football and at this level you’ve got to be switched on, you’ve got to make sure that you do everything you can to make sure that the momentum either stays with you or comes back your way. I’m all for those sorts of tactics, especially if it means you get the result at the end of the day.
“It’s great if it’s not happening to you but when it’s happening to you it’s extremely frustrating and you could see some of the tensions boiling over there. But that’s football at this level, you’re going to get that.”
Both City and Atletico have reached the Champions League final but have never lifted the trophy.
And despite the loss, Foster believed Simeone would actually be relatively content with how the tie was poised heading back to Madrid.
“1-0 away is probably what he thought would happen,” Foster said.
“Now, the first 45 of the second leg he takes it easy like this and then the last 45 he goes 100 miles an hour, a lot more play acting, a lot more bustling into people trying to get someone sent off.
“The last 45 is going to be absolutely huge.
“I think it’s positioned well for both teams and it’s far from over.”
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