We must be consistent. We have mocked, repeatedly, referees who try to “make up” in a second half for an outrageously wrong decision in the first.
So let us hear it for Kevin Friend’s steely resolve.
Far from being kind to us to atone for the atrocious penalty award, after he correctly judged the foul to have occurred outside the box only to be persuaded otherwise by his visually impaired linesman Billy Smallwood, he just got nastier. Most of the decisions that mattered today went against us.
The red for John Mensah was borderline. Had Mr Friend been eager to show an even-handed sort of approach, he’d have given the Ghanaian the benefit of the doubt, not least because we were – for heaven’s sake – 2-0 down by then, and beaten. And wasn’t this the same ref who failed to award a red when Darren Bent was brought down in a much more clear-cut scoring position at White Hart Lane last season?
Jamie Carragher admitted afterwards that the officials got it wrong, at least on the penalty. But then Liverpool have a habit of turning fouls outside the box into penalties at the Stadium of Light. No one has ever forgotten Gary McAllister doing it 10 years or so ago, with possibly the longest, most accomplished dive in the history of football cheating.
But that ends Monsieur Salut’s whingeing about the officials. Although the penalty probably changed everything, in that we were previously the better, sharper team and subsequently looked like Hartlepool Reserves, we did not lose solely because of one-sided decisions.
We lost because we could not turn good forward play in the first 30 minutes into anything resembling a proper chance unless you count the brilliant move and cross that left Richardson agonisingly short of being able to apply a final touch. We allowed a not very good Liverpool to threaten us every other time they advanced on our goal. And we mustered all of one shot on theirs, by Cattermole as late as 86 minutes.
This was the performance of a team of strugglers, not one pushing for a place in European competition. We were beaten by ordinary opposition and therefore, in front of a sell-out crowd that saw little reason – Niall please note – to consider their money well spent, we got what we deserved.
As Gary Rowell said in his summing-up of the game, this was one we’d all looked forward to and yet our team never really got going. All tickets went a fortnight ago. And on the day, with a strong-looking starting line-up and good options on the bench, we fell flat.
The French have a word for when something full of promise proves such a damp squib: pschitt. Pronounce it any way you want; that’s what it was/we were.
Mignolet, Bardsley Richardson, Mensah Henderson, Muntari, Welbeck, Bramble( c) Sessegnon, Ferdindand, Gyan
Subs: Gordon, Zenden, Malbranque, Elmohamady, Cattermole, Colback, Onuoha
Reina, Johnson, Meireles, Agger, Suarez, Carroll, Kuyt, Lucas, Carragher, Spearing, Skrtel
Subs: Gulacsi, Cole, Kyrgiakos, Rodriguez, N’Gog, Poulsen, Wilson