Brendan Rodgers risked possible Football Association action by questioning the appointment of a Greater Manchester referee to officiate the fixture against Manchester City, in which a 2-1 defeat for his Liverpool side allowed Arsenal to regain top spot in the Premier League.
Rodgers was indignant about Lee Mason’s performance, with the wrong decision to rule out a Raheem Sterling first half goal one of number of calls he felt contributed to a “horrendous” performance from the officials.
“I was surprised we were playing in Manchester and we have a Greater Manchester referee. I’m not sure what it was about,” Rodgers said, declaring that he intended to raise this with the referees’ assessor in the next few days. “Hopefully we don’t have a Greater Manchester referee again when we play a Manchester team. I’m sure for Liverpool v Man City we wouldn’t get anyone from Wirral being the ref.”
Rodgers’ claim that Luis Suarez should have won a second-half penalty was less justifiable. His comments may bring a rap on the wrists or a charge from the FA, who will assess whether they constitute an implication that Mason was “motivated by bias” or “called into question the integrity of a match referee.”
Mason, 42, is actually from Bolton, within the Greater Manchester conurbation, but Chris Foy, from St Helens, does not referee Merseyside fixtures. Mike Dean, from Wirral, was withdrawn from the 2006 FA Cup final when Liverpool played West Ham.
The Liverpool manager said his side were naive to have conceded Alvaro Negredo’s winner on the counter-attack near the interval but justifiably said he was “disappointed not to have won the game – let alone lose it.” He said: “Our attitude is to score but when you are four minutes to half time it’s important you manage the game – so we are disappointed with that goal.”
City manager Manuel Pellegrini said keeper Joe Hart’s display was encouraging but declared after one of the least emphatic home displays of the season that fixture congestion was unfair on his team.
Arsenal came from behind to beat West Ham and regain top place on a day in which Chelsea, Newcastle United and Manchester United all maintained their top-four pushes with wins. But Everton lost ground after a surprise home defeat to Sunderland – their first loss at Goodison Park this year.