Friday 27 April 2018

Few will be surprised if Suarez bites back again

With no protection from referees, striker's new-found patience is at its limits

Luis Suarez argues with referee Howard Webb and Chelsea player Oscar after an incident late in the game at Stamford Bridge
Luis Suarez argues with referee Howard Webb and Chelsea player Oscar after an incident late in the game at Stamford Bridge
Aidan O'Hara

Aidan O'Hara

AT some point this season, Luis Suarez will fall to the ground with a minimal degree of contact and the world of the Premier League will convulse itself into outrage about the cancer of cheating.

It's difficult to justify a player "engineering a free-kick" as Gary Neville put it in relation to Wayne Rooney against Hull City but, at the same time, when a player is being booted around the pitch by those who can't keep up with him and being ignored by the referee, it's understandable that they might take matters into their own hands.

Against Manchester City, Suarez was fouled on numerous occasions and got nothing other than a few debates about whether the fouls which weren't given were inside or outside the penalty area. For a player whose morals have so often been questioned, it was a rare moral victory.

Yesterday, a blatant foul by Samuel Eto'o, which would have given Liverpool the chance to equalise from the penalty spot in the final few minutes, resulted in referee Howard Webb pointing at something which only he could explain and, again, there was no foul. It meant two games, two moral victories for Suarez, no goals for him and no points for the team.

It would, of course, be better if players, managers and clubs could shrug their shoulders and get on with it but in the self-justification world of football it's never going to work that way and few emphasise that phenomenon better than Jose Mourinho.

SINCERITY

At some point in the last few months, the Chelsea manager has decided that he hates diving, although even on a subject where he should be on solid ground, it's difficult to believe his sincerity.

Yesterday, his instant reaction to Eto'o's challenge on Suarez was to march down the sideline in arm-waving fury in a pose he has perfected thanks to many years of practice.

A few minutes later, in an interview that was so long and unchallenged that you'd half expect to be seen again on the soon-to-be-launched channel of 'Sky Sports Jose', Mourinho reckoned Suarez deserved a yellow card for the manner of his fall.

In football, players and managers have an incredible ability to believe what they are saying even if all of the evidence points to the contrary. It's the reason why players can berate a referee for giving a throw-in or corner kick against them even though they know they were the last person to touch it.

Yesterday, Mourinho effectively had a free shot at Suarez's character because, with the points secured, he could attempt to damage Liverpool's future prospects by having a go at their best player. There wasn't a hope that he was going to pass up the opportunity.

Many would argue that Suarez has brought such controversy on himself with his previous actions, but Mourinho is clever enough to realise that, by implicitly praising the referee for his decision while casting aspersions on the Premier League's best striker, his team could, in future, be paid at both ends.

Suarez and Rooney both have the remarkable ability to know where the referee is at all times so that they can look straight at him and appeal for a foul before their body has even hit the ground. Like a bowler who constantly demands an lbw in cricket, such consistency of appealing doesn't always end up with the desired outcome.

From the referee's perspective, this might be a slightly irritating habit but there are many players who have ended up in hospital beds looking at a cast on their legs while contemplating their future career who certainly wish that they had jumped to the ground and avoided any contact at all.

Suarez and Rooney, thankfully, have yet to suffer such debilitating injuries but the reaction of Lucas Leiva to a poor tackle by Oscar in the dying minutes was that of a man who knows exactly what it's like to be on the sidelines for a long period of time. Luckily, there was no serious injury to Lucas but it seemed to be only because of his reaction that Webb decided to punish Oscar and not before several players had piled in to turn what was a pretty easy decision into a situation that required managing.

The desire from referees to let the game flow might be seen as honourable but players -- and defenders in particular -- will immediately seize on such generosity and push the boundaries to the limit.

Yesterday, Eto'o's moment of stupidity went unpunished but, strangely, it is Suarez rather than Eto'o whose reputation is likely to have been further sullied because he was the one who ended up on the ground appealing and incandescent in an incident in which he did nothing wrong.

Webb, as Lee Mason did in Liverpool's game against Manchester City, decided the perpetrator against Suarez had no case to answer. Liverpool and Suarez would be justified in worrying just how guilty the offender has to be.

Irish Independent

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