Sunderland boss plays down sending off in Arsenal defeat

Sunderland's manager Paolo Di Canio, left, is sent to the stands by referee Martin Atkinson
Sunderland's manager Paolo Di Canio, left, is sent to the stands by referee Martin Atkinson

PAOLO Di Canio was adamant that it was not his fiery Italian temperament which had him sent to the stands by referee Martin Atkinson in the closing stages of Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to Arsenal.

Instead, Sunderland’s head coach said it was his choice of words after virtually daring the Yorkshire official to send him off

Explaining that his dismissal, he said: “I was never more calm in my life,- even though the referee made the wrong decision for the goal we should have had.

“I said to the referee only that he needed to move things on more quickly.

“Arsenal had a player down at the end of the game who took two minutes to come off and I called the referee over to tell him that he must move the action on more quickly.

“We had a free-kick to take and only four minutes time added on and I was worried that we would not get those two minutes back.

“I tried to persuade the referee, and that was my protest.

“But the problem was that he told me: “If you keep on going like that then I will send you off, or send you to the stands,” and I invited him to do so! That was my mistake.

“When he said what he said, I said to him: “If you want to complete a perfect job today, then you have only to send me off.”

“So he did.

“He said ‘go!’

.Di Canio smiled as he recounted the story, recognising he might have been foolish to dare the official but he hopes Atkinson will accept on reflection that it wasn’t the man in black’s finest game.

“I’m sure he’s a good man, he’s a professional and he can recognise he made two mistakes,” he said.

“The first one was a mistake for what should have been a goal to us at a crucial stage of the game.

“The second one was in sending me off - although he might feel it was not a mistake because I invited him to send me off!”