Ranting Dalglish sees red over referee's 'joke' decisions
Liverpool 1 Aston Villa 1
Sunday 08 April 2012
For the 11th time this season, Liverpool failed to win at Anfield and for the 11th time Kenny Dalglish sat in what was once the boot room and is now a press centre and talked of luck, frustration and refereeing decisions.
Aston Villa were pummelled relentlessly by a side that finished with four specialist strikers. If you count the move that led to Luis Suarez's late equaliser, Liverpool struck the frame of the goal four times, taking their tally for the season to 27. When the referee, Michael Oliver, signalled the end, James Collins's muscles and those of the rest of his back four would have ached like those of a boxer who had spent too many rounds on the ropes.
Dalglish was in no mood to claim a moral victory. After six defeats in seven matches, Liverpool needed real wins. The frustration was unbearable; he denounced Oliver for failing to award a penalty when a ball appeared to strike the arm of Villa's American defender, Eric Lichaj, and for booking Suarez for diving.
If it was pointed out to Dalglish that Lichaj had his back to goal when the ball hit him and that Suarez possesses a serial offender's form for falling to the ground, he was in no mood to listen. A month's worth of defeats does that to a manager.
He claimed that Oliver had told Dirk Kuyt that Lichaj had been "unlucky". "I have never seen a penalty given by a referee when he said a boy was unlucky," Dalglish said. "What chance have we got?
"Suarez was booked for diving and their guy [Stephen Ireland] trod on him. That is a joke because you can imagine the headlines tomorrow. He has been booked for diving and he is lucky he has not broken his foot.
"There have been an awful lot of coincidences if you go over the last three games and the number of decisions that have not gone our way.
"The danger is that paranoia will set in and you think there is an agenda against our football club. When you are refused a penalty because the referee thinks your opponent was unlucky, then what can you do? We have integrity but maybe we are going about it the wrong way. Perhaps we should shout our mouths off and complain about things."
Since a fortnight ago Dalglish had sat in the same room and claimed that Suarez's punching of the ball into the net should have been allowed, maybe paranoia is stalking the corridors of Anfield. Liverpool were unlucky, not in the non-award of a penalty but because they battered their opponents and emerged with a point. However, once more they failed to make superior resources tell.
That they were facing one of the few Premier League sides that could claim to be in worse form than themselves could only have made the bruise more livid. This was a contest between two animals baring their gums at one another and it was Aston Villa who bit first.
Pepe Reina's dismissal at Newcastle meant that this was Alexander Doni's first game of the season and when he flapped at a cross from Stephen Warnock it seemed it would not be worth the wait. Barry Bannan played it incisively to Chris Herd, who swept his shot into the net beneath the Kop. The game was 10 minutes old and the young Australian had scored his first goal for Villa.
Thereafter, Doni was barely troubled, although the same could not be said for Shay Given. The Irishman made any number of remarkable interventions, deflecting Kuyt's sliding shot on to the post in the first half and later trying to deal with Steven Gerrard's crosses which, in the words of the Aston Villa manager, Alex McLeish, were "undefendable".
One was met by Suarez who possesses an astonishing leap for a small man. The ball struck the post and scooted across the face of the goal before Given pushed it away. In between all this, Kuyt had somehow contrived to miss from two yards.
The breakthrough came with eight minutes remaining. Craig Bellamy had just skimmed the post and then another superlative cross from Gerrard was headed against the crossbar by Daniel Agger and nodded in by Suarez. It seemed justice of sorts had been done, although Dalglish begged to differ.
Liverpool (4-4-2): Doni; Flanagan, Carragher, Skrtel, Enrique (Agger 76); Henderson, Gerrard, Shelvey (Bellamy 65), Downing (Carroll 65); Kuyt, Suarez.
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Given; Hutton, Collins, Baker, Lichaj; Bannan (Carruthers 86), Herd, Ireland, Warnock; Heskey (Gardner 58), Agbonlahor.
Referee Michael Oliver.
Man of the match Collins (Aston Villa).
Match rating 7/10.
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