Brendan Rogers has progressed well since his painfully short term as Reading Manager and is now manager of Liverpool of course. I was disappointed however to hear his comments on the Liverpool game against ManchesterCity. I agree with him that it was mistakes that resulted in Liverpool losing the game but where we differ is whose mistakes they were. Let me just mention the major errors which I think had they not been made, could have won the game for Liverpool or at least gained a point.
Their goalkeeper Simon Mignolet committed a peculiar error with what was not a particularly difficult punt towards his goal. Instead of trying to catch it or punch it he seemed to try and push it away but only succeeded in dropping it into his own goal. That cancelled Liverpool’s early lead. The second glaring error was after a beautiful counter attack; Luis Suarez played a perfect pass to Raheem Sterling who was inside his opponent’s goal area with a completely open goal in front of him. Easier to score than miss but he skied the ball over the goal from less than six yards.
If we believe what we read in the newspapers, there is no mention of these incidents in Brendon Rogers’s diatribe about the mistakes that in his opinion cost his team the game. Nowhere is there any criticism of his players, instead he resorts to the old favourite of blaming the referee, who is this case was Lee Mason. He quoted of course the offside that should never have been given but if Rogers is happy to excuse Sterling for his blatant miss let’s have a word in defence of the assistant referee. In this case Suarez threaded an exquisite pass from behind which Sterling ran onto. Sterling was running towards his opponent’s goal but the defenders were heading in the opposite direction. I know that the PGMO makes great efforts with assistant referees to get these decisions correct as I have undertaken some of their training videos. These replicate exactly these moving situations when you have to keep your eyes on three players, the passer, the receiver and the last-but-one defender. The decision has to be made when the passer plays the ball. It is often only when the video is replayed and stopped at that moment, as of course it was by the television in the case of Sterling, that you can tell for certain whether or not you have got it right. I don’t mind admitting that I didn’t call it correct every time nor do many people. Was that assistant referee’s mistake any worse than Sterling’s? Both cost Liverpool a goal. He didn’t mean to get it wrong any more than Sterling intended his miss-kick.
But in any case, why did Rogers blame Mason for that and question the fact that he was from greater Manchester. It was the assistant referee’s mistake and Mason was certainly in no position to overrule him. But Mason did turn down the penalty appeal by Suarez, which was said to have infuriated Rogers. The replay shows that Joleon Lescott had pulled Suarez’s shirt, which I sure the referee couldn’t see but Suarez went into a theatrical dive. Given his reputation for diving, how likely was it that that would convince the referee that he had been fouled? It’s also worth pointing out that earlier, City’s captain, Vincent Kompany had his shirt held by Martin Skrtel in the Liverpool penalty area but decided to stay on his feet and doing so scored the equaliser.
No one has ever said that referees don’t make mistakes, but so do players and they are just as likely to affect the result of the game, perhaps even more so.