Steven Gerrard says he is ready to forgive Motherwell skipper Peter Hartley for his “naive” comments mocking former Rangers defender Fabio Cardoso.
The Fir Park captain was forced to issue an apology and retraction after saying it was “fun to watch” Cardoso “weeping” after the Portuguese defender suffered a broken nose in a clash with Well frontman Ryan Bowman last season.
“We accept the apology,” Gerrard said. “I spoke to Steve (Robinson, Motherwell manager) this morning. The kid has been naive, he’s got it badly wrong.
“But to be fair he has been sharp to retract the comments and issue an apology.
“Steve has been on this morning, we’ve had a conversation and I think it’s important now that we focus on the football. There’s an exciting game to play on Sunday for both teams and I think we need to put that to bed.
“We accept the apology, we forgive and we move on.”
Cardoso - now playing for Santa Clara in his homeland after having his Gers contract ripped up - was left with blood pouring from his nose as Motherwell bullied their way to a 2-0 win in the Betfred Cup semi-final at Hampden.
But Gerrard insists his new-look Light Blues will be up for the fight this time.
“If teams want to come to try and rough us up and bully us we’re game, we’re up for it,” he said. “Bring it on. It’s no problem.
“We can’t control other team’s tactics and gameplans. If that’s their style then we embrace it and will deal with it.
“All we ask is the referee gives us the protection that we need, for both teams.
“There is a difference between being physical, fair and playing in a direct style. We have absolutely no problem with that. In terms of bullying, we just need to be careful that the officials protect us as well.”