Bruce points finger at referee

Liverpool 3 Wigan Athletic 2

As Steve Bruce was saying, like countless broken-hearted football men before him, there is defeat, travesty and something that makes the Italian Job resemble a casual piece of shoplifting. In the harsh circumstances of his team's late loss, after shaping the game just about utterly for more than an hour, it was probably inevitable that the Wigan manager exposed himself to the wrath of the Football Association disciplinary committee, for whom criticising a referee has long been roughly on a par with high treason.

Bruce plainly made an effort to measure his words but when you skimmed off the niceties you were still left with a devastating indictment of the referee.

Bruce said, "I've known Alan Wiley from my Birmingham days. I invited him to the club to go over the rules. I've got the highest regard for him but he got it wrong today – totally and utterly wrong. He has cost us the game. That's my opinion and I think everybody in the ground will understand it went in Liverpool's favour. There is no way on Earth we would have been beaten if we had had 11 men on the pitch with 10 minutes remaining.

"I can't say what I want to say because it would be a field day for you and I'm not going to get myself fined by the FA. I just thought all the little decisions in the second half went Liverpool's way. It's difficult enough coming to Anfield but you need a little bit of fairness and strength."

The second yellow card that removed the hugely influential Antonio Valencia for a rash tackle on Xabi Alonso was not what enraged Bruce. His anger was fuelled almost entirely by the first one which, television evidence confirms, was administered in stark error. Valencia was booked for rushing the free-kick over which Alonso had lingered but the Wigan player plainly moved forward only when the Spaniard touched the ball. With the one-man advantage, Liverpool's chances of equalising and then pushing for the three points made so vital to their momentum by the authority of a weakened Chelsea's victory at Middlesbrough earlier in the day, were of course hugely enhanced, especially with growing evidence, conceded by Bruce, that his inter-continental World Cup players were running perilously close to empty. There were some shrewd substitutions by Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez. He discarded full-backs Andrea Dossena and Alvaro Arbeloa as Wigan fell deep and inserted the hard-running Nabil El Zhar and Yossi Benayoun.

Coupled with Valencia's exit, the effect was devastating for a Wigan team who had brilliantly controlled the first half and for whom the latest two goals from another inspired acquisition, the on-loan Egyptian Amr Zaki, certainly did not overstate either their confidence or their easy control of every area of the pitch.

Benitez conceded that he looks forward to a time when his team put him through a little less stress, but if Liverpool's performance was poor – and no kind of support to the idea that this is indeed the year when they challenge significantly the elite of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal – it did contain a commitment and an energy which was little less than phenomenal.

The Anfield manager may not have shaped a team of smoothly marshalled composure on the ball, but there is no doubt that they will never run short of motivation. Dirk Kuyt remains the embodiment of such ambition to get the most out of what talent he has been given. While his partner Robbie Keane again seemed hugely overpriced at £18m, Kuyt once more dredged his soul in the effort to help his team.

In the absence of the injured Fernando Torres, the Dutchman also carried, for once, a genuine cutting edge as his goals, and one from Albert Riera delivered victory. Bruce agreed that his team would probably have had a sharply different look if Emile Heskey had returned from his heroic service for England in Minsk without injury but it was still hard to imagine a better realised performance. Wigan's only reward was the applause that must inevitably accompany any indication that lower echelon Premier League clubs are not necessarily obliged to equate Doomsday football with their best chance of avoiding relegation. Bruce fears the arrival of big-club "vultures" as such cut-price performers as Valencia, Wilson Palacios, Daniel de Ridder and, most spectacularly here, Zaki showed what can happen when ambition to achieve the football good life is married to exceptional talent.

"I can honestly say this is the best team I've ever had," said Bruce, "but I've got about six players – Valencia, Palacios, Heskey, [Chris] Kirkland, [Mario] Melchiot, De Ridder – who are bound to be looked at by bigger clubs. It's just something you have to put up with. What we're trying to do is really play with good quality players because if you can't play in the Premiership, in the end you are goosed."

For much of this match that fate seemed to belong to Liverpool. Their problem was that they couldn't begin to match Wigan's willingness to get on the ball and show their ability to develop an authentic – and menacing – pattern of play.

That this splendid approach went unrewarded had something to do with the ferocity of Liverpool's will and, clearly, a training regime which might have been borrowed from a superior Commando course. But then there was also that other reason, one that leaped out of any fair-minded review of the most influential incident in a match of unexpected character. Bruce tried to be diplomatic, but it's not his greatest strength. Finding real players, and making them play, is an entirely different matter.

Goals: Zaki (29) 0-1; Kuyt (37) 1-1; Zaki (45) 1-2; Riera (80) 2-2; Kuyt (85) 3-2.

Liverpool (4-4-1-1) : Reina; Dossena (El Zhar, 78), Agger, Carragher, Arbeloa (Benayoun, 79); Alonso, Gerrard, Pennant, Riera; Keane (Hyypia, 90); Kuyt. Substitutes not used: Cavalieri (gk), Lucas, Insua, Ngog.

Wigan (4-5-1) Kirkland; Melchiot, Scharner, Bramble, Figueroa; De Ridder (Kilbane, 79), Valencia, Cattermole, Palacios (Koumas, 90), Kapo (Brown, 82); Zaki. Substitutes not used: Pollitt (gk), Boyce, Taylor, Camara.

Booked: Liverpool Dossena; Wigan Valencia.

Sent off: Wigan Valencia (75).

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire).

Man of the match: Zaki.

Attendance: 43,868.

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Field of broken dreams: Andy Bell visits Passchendaele
news5 News's Andy Bell visited the killing fields of the Great War, and his ancestor - known only from his compelling war diary - came to life
Travel
travel
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel