Socceroos hero Mitchell Duke lifts the lid on what really happened when Manchester United and Tunisia star slammed the ball into his face – and the bizarre order he was given by the referee
- Duke has opened up on his fiery sideline confrontation with Hannibal Mejbri
- The Manchester United and Tunisia starlet collected Duke in the nose with a ball
- He appeared to throw the ball directly at the Aussie while he was on the ground
- The two were forced by the referee to shake hands after the encounter
- Duke said Mejbri told him he didn’t mean to hit him and has accepted apology
- Click here for the latest World Cup 2022 news, fixtures, live action and results
Socceroos match-winner Mitchell Duke has opened up on the moment he was left seething after Manchester United start Hannibal Mejbri threw the ball into his face during Australia’s World Cup win over Tunisia.
Duke went from ecstasy to agony following his stunning header, when Mejbri appeared to throw the ball directly at the Socceroos striker’s head from the sideline.
It collected the 31-year-old on the nose, but the former Central Coast Mariners star, who now plays in Japan for Fagiano Okayama, said to be fair to his Tunisian opponent, it was a pretty large target.
Socceroos match-winner Mitchell Duke was not happy after having a ball slammed into his face when he was lying on the ground injured. It came after the striker put Australia ahead as they beat Tunisia 1-0 in the crucial World Cup encounter
‘A defender kind of came through the back of me when I tried to control the ball with my chest, he kind of smacked me through the back and then while I was on the ground, someone had thrown a ball and hit me on my beak,’ Duke told Wide World of Sports.
‘I know it’s not easy to miss that,’ he joked.
Duke was furious, and got up to remonstrate with the 19-year-old United prodigy.
Manchester United wunderkind Hannibal Mejbri, pictured playing in Tunisia’s game against Denmark, apologised to Duke after their sideline confrontation
Duke, known more for his uncompromising attack of the football and relentless than a deft first touch, confronted Mejbri with teammate Jackson Irvine in tow. Given he was already on one yellow card from the France game, the striker wisely kept his anger well in-check.
Amazingly, referee Daniel Siebert then insisted the Aussie shake Mejbri’s hand after the clash – a request Duke complied with, if only briefly.
The match-winner was keen to put the incident behind him, and said the Tunisian wunderkind had told him he didn’t do it intentionally.
Referee Daniel Siebert (left) forced Mitchell Duke (number 15) and Hannibal Mejbri (right) to shake hands, but the Aussie was keen to keep it brief
Siebert spoke with Mejbri and Tunisia coach Jalel Kadri after the former appeared to throw a ball directly at Duke
‘I wasn’t happy with it, obviously, because I was already in agony from the knock – to feel like he purposely threw a ball at my face, I was ready to get a bit pumped up and fired up,’ Duke said of the fiery scenes.
‘At the end of the day, he said it wasn’t on purpose, we shook hands, the referee was happy with that – and to be fair, he approached me again at half time to say sorry and that it was an accident, so all’s fair in that situation, and respect is there.’
The fiery pro-Tunisian crowd even booed Duke for being angry at having a ball slam into his nose, but with such a big match upcoming this Thursday morning (2am AEDT) against Denmark, it was a yellow card-less Duke and the Aussies who had the last laugh.