No complaints about today’s result. Whatever justified grievances we have with the match officials, Liverpool deserved to win and we deserved nowt. And, in the latest from our French Fancies series about football on the other side of the Channel, we identify a much nastier example of the ugly face of football …
In one way Jay Spearing is not a cheat at all. But then nor, in one way, was Gary McAllister. Both were indeed fouled by Sunderland players, so falling over was not an impossible consequence.
Their status as cheats is judged on what happened next. The fouls occurred outside the penalty area and the fouled players proceeded to float though the air (McAllister) or run and plunge (Spearing) to land well inside the box.
Maybe Spearing will plead innocence, though a Liverpool fan has already said on this site that he dived. One radio commentator even asked whether he should have been booked but I doubt whether you can be punished for being fouled, even if you then show off significant long-jump skills. In any case, our Jay is a mere apprentice by comparison with McAllister who, as previously observed, began his dive not so much outside the penalty area as outside the ground.
And he will doubtless sleep soundly in his bed in the smug knowledge that his action brought his team a key goal, just as McAllister’s secured an equaliser a decade ago.
But step forward a much more accomplished cheat than either of them. Dejan Lovren by name.
I watched Lyon v Rennes last night and, as is often the case with Ligue 1, found myself drifting off to other activities while it was on. I’d painted the toilet walls and watching them dry was, by comparison, a compelling spectacle.
French league football is better than it was, but a lot worse than it was before that: not, in other words, a particularly pretty sight.
My French brother-in-law bemoans the lack of goals by comparison with Premier matches, though our much-loved relegation certainties Arles-Avignon did figure in a 3-3 draw last week against Lorient (before resuming normal service with a 2-0 defeat at Caen tonight).
Despite my wandering attention during the Lyon game, I had heard Lovren’s name a few times. He seemed to be getting away with a lot in the first half and then, in the second with his team Lyon 1-0 up, he was involved with a teammate in what I thought was a bad challenge on Victor Hugo Montano to which Montano responded by kicking feebly – making little no or contact – in this assailant’s direction. But not in the direction of his face. And guess which part of the body Lovren clutched, in a glorious pretence of utter agony, with both hands.
It was all quite enough to persuade Antony Gautier, l’arbitre no less, to produce a red card. The French commentator called it severe, I thought it grotesque and la presse francaise today talked of Lovren’s simulation and exaggeration and of M Gautier tumbling neatly into his trap. I even came across condemnation from a Lyon fan, on OL’s official website: “We don’t need to stoop to that to win.”
And win they didn’t. Wonderful to record, Rennes went on to grab an equaliser, keeping them ahead of Lyon in the top four.