Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Burgled then Buggered: Liverpool 1 - Manchester United 2

photo by Simone Lovativia PhotoRee

According to Columnist Scott, Liverpool would be on 20 titles if only it wasn't for those damned referees:

On a day that should have only been remembered for the solidarity of rival fans, a long overdue handshake and the symbolism of 96 red balloons, Referee Mike Halsey first burgled Liverpool FC, then buggered them thoroughly. Manchester United was dominated when the home side had 11 men on the field and was still outplayed when facing only 10. With overwhelming possession and a finally-on-fire Steven Gerrard, the better Reds utterly controlled the first 39 minutes of play, creating multiple chances and providing opportunities for Lindegaard's highlight reel.

Gerrard found his passing touch and Raheem Sterling was stellar once again. And Suzo impressed when he came on while the team worked tirelessly and cohesively . But this game will long be remembered for 2 calls made by Mr. Halsey. The first, in the 39th minute, was a straight red card for Jonjo Shelvey's tackle with Evans. Notice I didn't say "on" because that would imply that Shelvey was the only perpetrator. Yes, Shelvey went in hard and rashly. But it was as if he slid into a mirror because that is exactly what Evans did. The only difference was that Shelvey was the sturdier of the two in the tackle. Given the way the game was being called to that point and the identical actions of the two subject players, the ejection of Shelvey was ludicrous and tantamount to larceny. I hate to agree with Eric Wynalda's commentary but he got it exactly right. It should also be noted that Robin Van Persie (who I only first noticed was on the field in the 24th minute) saw only yellow for a studs up, reckless challenge in the 84th minute.

Still, down a man, Liverpool fought on bravely and continued to be the better team. Gerrard's calmly taken volley at the beginning of the second half was nothing other than what was deserved for the better team. It was bad luck, then, that mere minutes later Rafael da Silva scored on an improbable left-footed shot off the post. Credit, however, must go to the defender as his strike was brilliantly taken.

And yet Liverpool responded admirably, continuing to be the better team. In the 57th minute, Luis Suarez went down easily in the box but the replay showed he did get caught on the foot by the defender. Still, I had no problem with the no-call as it had been a hard fought and rough game to that point and there was minimal contact. Further, I am not naïve as to the Uruguayan's deserved reputation. But my understanding turned to indignation 20 minutes later when Antonio Valencia (who was already in the act of diving because he had lost the angle!) was barely touched by Johnson. Halsey pointed to the spot and buggered the previously burgled Liverpool team.

Bad calls happen. But bad calls that are inconsistent with other calls are what sully a game and, justifiably, anger fans. If Shelvey sees red then so should Evans (and probably Van Persie too). And if Valencia was "fouled" during his swan dive then Suarez was fouled too. Not to mention Daniel Agger getting mugged, full-nelson style, in the box in the first half.

All the calls went Man Yoo's way and that made the difference. The better team on the day, even with only 10 men for most of the game, did not win, despite showing great courage and spirit throughout, hustling and pressing deep into stoppage time. Liverpool fans and Brendan Rodgers should be proud of the team and, with similar performances in the future, barring other refereeing debacles, the points will come.

This post was difficult to write because I don't like to complain about referees. I have been a player, a coach and a ref (and still do all three). I know it is hard to always make the right call and so I think, more often than not, refs who are working hard to get it right should be given the benefit of the doubt. But this game had more than one mirror-image situation that received varying treatment from the official. And, importantly, those decisions first gave an unfair advantage and then gave an undeserved win. Shame on you Mike Halsey.

This is farlieonfootie for September 25.


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