Marseille coach Elie Baup has leapt to the defence of Joey Barton after the controversial midfielder was sent off for the first time in his Ligue 1 career.
Barton, 30, had been booked just twice in 11 competitive outings for Marseille before he was dismissed on the hour mark of his club's surprise 1-0 defeat at home to struggling Nancy on Sunday.
The ex-England international, whose early bath distracted from a rare poor individual display, was shown two yellow cards in the space of four minutes at the Stade Velodrome. However, rather than condemning his player, Baup blamed referee Wilfried Bien.
"The first referee who wanted to send him off sent him off," Baup said. "The first booking was not justified. Perhaps the second was by the way he threw himself into it. Everyone was waiting to see who would send off Barton for the first time. Frankly, this evening, his dismissal was not deserved."
While his ill-timed, if not vicious, lunge on Djamel Bakar was always likely to see Barton booked, his first caution did appear harsh as replays showed he made little if no contact with Nancy's Vincent Muratori, who was the subject of a vitriolic tweet from Barton.
"Players who roll around when nobody touches them should be subsequently banned. I hate cheats. Authorities should address it," Barton claimed on his official account after the game.
The former Newcastle player's initial post-game reaction, though, had been more measured.
"I think my red card wasn't deserved," he said. "For the first booking, I slid, but that's the way it goes. I'm disappointed because it changed the face of the game. I tried to play the ball and not be aggressive [for the second booking], but it happens. I apologised in the dressing room afterwards."
Despite his 'bad-boy' reputation, which has followed him to France, L'Equipe pointed out Barton's disciplinary record is not as bad as many would think. With five red cards in 227 Premier League matches, his dismissals-per-game ratio is far inferior to that of Frank Leboeuf, sent off five times in 144 games for Chelsea, and Patrick Vieira, who was dismissed eight times in 307 top-flight appearances for Arsenal and Manchester City.