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Jan 22, 2011

Victory's Muscat awaits fate, Zahra outed

The tackle which could have ended two careers may now only end one.

As Melbourne Victory captain Kevin Muscat faces universal condemnation and perhaps a career-ending suspension over arguably the worst tackle in A-League history, his victim Adrian Zahra is expected to be fit to start next season though he faces several months on the sidelines.

Early fears were the Melbourne Heart midfielder had completely torn all the ligaments in his knee and his career was in jeopardy after being crudely scythed down by Muscat during a 2-2 draw at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.

But club medical staff confirmed Zahra had escaped with partial tears in multiple ligaments.

The Heart said Zahra may not even need a knee reconstruction, though he will require a lengthy rehabilitation and will consult with a surgeon later this week.

While the 20-year-old Zahra will miss the rest of this season, the Heart say he could be fit enough for the start of the next.

Now the question is what damage will be inflicted on Muscat, whose tackle will be dealt with by the A-League's match review panel on Monday but has already been greeted with outrage in the court of public opinion.

Decried by commentators and sports fans alike over a tackle which ticked every 'no' box in football, the 37-year-old could have played his last A-League match if the panel decides to impose a heavy ban for a challenge that was reckless, dangerous, cynical, late and high.

Any ban of more than four matches could finish Muscat's A-League career, depending on whether the Victory make the finals and how far they progress.

Muscat, who was sent off for the challenge, apologised publicly on Sunday.

But the three-man panel will be under huge pressure to apply a fitting penalty for a tackle which has sparked outrage.

Muscat also has a long list of prior transgressions, including a 1998 tackle on Charlton opponent Matty Holmes when playing for English side Wolves, which cost the ex-Socceroo more than $600,000 in a legal settlement.

"I have to accept full responsibility for it ... it was an incident that I deeply regret," Muscat said of the Zahra challenge.

"It was a mistimed tackle, dreadfully mistimed. At no point did I have any intent to injure the player."

Heart coach John van 't Schip was seething post-match over the tackle, and Muscat's actions were also criticised by long-time friend and former Socceroos teammate Mark Bosnich.

"Whether he is a friend or not, you can't defend the undefendable," Bosnich told Fox Sports.

"That was a disgraceful tackle. I would actually suggest he should be out for as long as Zahra's out.

"That could ruin a kid's career. We don't want that in the game."

Any A-League ban would not apply to the Victory's Asian Champions League campaign starting next month, meaning Muscat could still play in that competition.

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