Sport Soccer

Sunday 24 September 2017

'Horrendous' officials cost us -- Rodgers

Manchester City's Samir Nasri in action with Liverpool's Raheem Sterling
Manchester City's Samir Nasri in action with Liverpool's Raheem Sterling

Chris Bascombe

Liverpool's defeat to Manchester City ended in controversy as Brendan Rodgers said he will be asking the Premier League why "a referee from Greater Manchester" was in charge of the fixture.

Rodgers cursed a series of what he termed "horrendous" decisions after his side's 2-1 loss at The Etihad Stadium, citing the choice of referee Lee Mason, who is from Bolton, as of particular concern given his ties to the region.

The Liverpool manager (right) suggested it was like "having someone from the Wirral" officiating at Anfield.

Liverpool were unhappy with numerous calls, particularly an offside ruling against Raheem Sterling in the first half.

Replays proved that was a huge mistake, and Rodgers also pointed to the refusal to award a free-kick and penalty to Luis Suarez as Liverpool pursued an equaliser as further examples of decisions going against his side.

Rodgers' comments are sure to come under scrutiny from the FA, who take a particularly tough stance on any such critical remarks against the officials, but he said the offside error, especially, was too blatant to ignore.

"We had no help from the officials. They were horrendous," said Rodgers. "We never got any decision for us. The linesman for the offside one -- they're not even on the same cut of grass. It is not even a difficult one.

"It is a perfectly timed run when he was through on goal, the kind of move we have worked hard on. You can't get a decision like that wrong at this level. They are big moments in a big game.

"There was another incident where Luis didn't get a free-kick when Joleon Lescott comes through and it was waved play on. It is arguable it is a penalty at the end. But it was throughout the game. Hopefully we don't have a Greater Manchester referee again on a Liverpool-Manchester game."

"I was surprised we were playing in Manchester and have a referee from Greater Manchester. I never speak about officials but I feel the need to protect the players this evening. They were outstanding and got nothing.

"Come the end of the game, the next day or two, I will get a call from an assessor and be asked for my opinion of the performance. I would ask the question. I am sure we won't get Liverpool-Man City (refereed by) someone from the Wirral."

Although Rodgers said he did not wish for his comments to overshadow his side's encouraging performance in a narrow defeat, that is now inevitable.

Mason has covered two other games involving Manchester clubs this season, both involving United rather than City, and the Professional Games Match Officials (PGMO) steadfastly defend their members when their integrity is questioned. There have been several precedents where referees have been kept apart from teams in their region, however.

In the 2006 FA Cup final, Wirral referee Mike Dean was replaced when Liverpool played West Ham, and St Helens official Chris Foy does not referee Liverpool or Everton fixtures.

"The officials will make mistakes. I just felt the mistakes they made shouldn't have happened at this level," Rodgers said. "We are 1-0 up and have Raheem through on goal and it is three feet. Where you are as a linesman, you can see the whole picture. Of course if Raheem goes through he scores."

Aside from the contentious decision, it was an enthralling fixture between two sides with title pretensions, Rodgers seeing the positives despite the loss to a formidable City side.

"I was very proud of the players. Some of our movement and passing was exceptional. We have lost the game but take a great deal of encouragement. I think people go away and look at us as a team that is hopefully going to be up there challenging. Our main intention is to set up camp in the top four. We have shown this year we are hopefully going to be up there and doing that."

City's preservation of their flawless home league record was helped by Joe Hart's return to form, as the England No 1 made numerous key saves.

"I'm pleased with Joe, not just today, but all the games in the last month," said City manager Manuel Pellegrini.

"It was good for Joe to have rest. He was not in his best moment because he played three years without a break, but he has worked hard for the last month. He is the best goalkeeper in England.

"Overall, it was a very important win because if Liverpool won they would have been four points ahead of us. We had the personality to come back, so I am very pleased with the response. It is not easy against such a difficult team. We defended very well, especially against Suarez, who is a great striker in his best moment." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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