Rafael Benitez ran roughshod over the various high-profile campaigns urging respect for match officials yesterday by indicating that referee Phil Dowd needed glasses after he turned down two late penalty appeals by Liverpool in their 2-1 defeat to Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
The Liverpool manager also claimed the fourth official, Stuart Attwell, who advised Dowd to send off Liverpool's assistant manager, Sammy Lee, in the closing stages, was "too young" to be officiating in Premier League games. The 26-year-old is the youngest-ever Premier League referee and caused controversy when he gave the infamous "ghost goal" for Reading against Watford last September when the ball had gone wide.
As for Benitez's verdict on Dowd, it may take the FA's finest legal minds to bring him to book. When asked to give his opinion on the referee's performance, the Liverpool manager did not say anything but removed his spectacles from his pocket and held them up to reporters. The FA can hardly ask him to explain his comments.
On Attwell, Benitez said: "The fourth official is a young referee and maybe he needs to calm down a bit." Later the Liverpool manager said: "The fourth official is too young. I don't know how old he is but he is still young. We had a meeting the other day, they said we cannot speak about the referees as a person, [or] about the decisions but everybody could see the situation [against Spurs]."
Dowd waved away Liverpool appeals for two penalties, both against Benoît Assou-Ekotto in the latter stages of the match: the first for what they claimed was a shove on substitute Andrei Voronin, the second for handball.
Earlier, Liverpool had been given a penalty for Heurelho Gomes' foul on Glen Johnson which even Harry Redknapp admitted was "nailed on".
Benitez said: "I think everyone could see there was a penalty, especially to Voronin, it was so clear. The third one [for handball], you could excuse, you can say that the hand was to the ball or the ball was to the hand. It could be, but the other one was so clear it was unbelievable."
Steven Gerrard's penalty levelled the score after Assou-Ekotto had given Spurs the lead but Bassong headed the winner for his new club in the 59th minute. Benitez conceded that his team had started poorly. "I think we didn't play well, especially the first half," he said. "We were much better in the second half, pushing harder, more options in the final third. Clearly we have to improve if we want to win these kind of games."
There are injury fears for Liverpool ahead of their game against Stoke on Wednesday.
Martin Skrtel and Jamie Carragher both needed stitches after a clash of heads in the first half and the former was finally substituted suffering from a problem with his jaw.
Redknapp, whose team face Hull on Wednesday, said that he expected Bassong, an £8m signing from Newcastle, to be one of his best players this season.
"I like him, I think he will be an outstanding player," Redknapp said. "Alan Shearer and Iain Dowie said to me that if they didn't stay on at Newcastle, one player I should look at was Bassong, that he was one hell of a player. He's raw, he's young and he's lightning quick."Reuse content