Wednesday 17 January 2018

Toffees fans give Uruguayan stick over 'offside teeth'

Jim White

There are many adjectives that could be used to describe Luis Suarez. But shy or retiring are not among them.

This pulsating, utterly compelling 219th Merseyside derby was dominated by the diminutive Uruguayan.

He was at the centre of the build-up, he scored twice and was denied a third and winning goal in the last seconds by one of the least accurate offside decisions ever to besmirch this fixture.

And, in between, he was responsible for the season's most memorable goal celebration. Not a quiet afternoon at Goodison, then, for the Liverpool forward.

Before the match, Everton manager David Moyes had warned referee Andre Marriner about Suarez's propensity for tumbling to the turf at the merest hint of a tackle.

"It will turn supporters away from the game if they think players are conning their way to results," the Everton manager insisted, before adding that diving could be quickly eradicated by some judicious banning orders as long as referees, starting with Marriner, took appropriate action.

Chasten

Whatever his insistence that he pays no heed to criticism, Suarez was clearly paying attention to what was being said about him from across Stanley Park.

When he scored Liverpool's first goal after 12 minutes (or more accurately when Leighton Baines diverted his sharp cross off his heel into the net), Liverpool's No 7 thrust aside all attempts by his team-mates to celebrate, dashing instead towards the home dugout.

There, in an echo of Jurgen Klinsmann's self-referential cameo on his arrival in England in 1994, he dived to the ground, sliding across the turf in front of the Everton manager.

Marriner was clearly listening to Moyes' advice, though as it transpired it was not Suarez he would chasten for inappropriate theatrics.

Rather it was an unexpected thespian, Everton captain Phil Neville, who drew his disciplinary ire.

Under the close attentions of Liverpool's Daniel Agger, Neville went down as if under sniper fire in a hapless attempt to win a free-kick. All it drew instead was a yellow card and a broad smile from Agger.

"Are you watching David Moyes?" chorused the Liverpool fans.

But Moyes only had eyes for Suarez. He was convinced the Liverpool forward should have been sent off for a raking challenge on Sylvain Distin.

All around the ground as Distin rolled in agony, the Everton fans were on their feet, stewing in righteous indignation about Suarez's sly swipe down the back of the Frenchman's leg.

That is Suarez: an unholy amalgam of the sublime and the ugly. While it is the latter that has made him opposition supporters' favourite pantomime villain, it is the former that so inspires the Liverpool followers. And for most of this match, you could see why.

He led the Liverpool line with drive and purpose, his movement to step ahead of the Everton defence and score the visitors' second an exemplar of penalty-box predation.

And it seemed to need his contribution to wake up the home team. Looking as if they had enjoyed a bit too much of a clock-changing lie-in, Everton were shaken from their slumber to hit back at Suarez with a screamer of a goal from Leon Osman.

With Baines and Kevin Miralas terrorising the right side of the Liverpool defence, a second, from Steven Naismith had a certain inevitability.

But as the second half seemed to be grinding towards a shared conclusion, Suarez stepped forward.

Steven Gerrard won a free-kick midway between the centre circle and the edge of the Everton penalty area. He took the kick himself, floating it menacingly into the Everton box. Sebastian Coates climbed up and headed it across goal, where Suarez poked it high into Tim Howard's net.

Suarez thought he was to have the final say in a match that throughout -- like Distin's leg -- had born his stamp.

This time he stayed on his feet in celebration, running away with his thumb in his mouth, his back to the linesman, unaware that the official had belatedly -- and mistakenly -- signalled it should not stand. Even Moyes conceded it was a poor bit of officiating.

Not that the Everton fans were too concerned about the decision's legitimacy. How they enjoyed the the sight of that raised flag, shrieking their mockery at the Uruguayan.

And an hour after the final whistle, the departing Evertonians were chanting outside the stadium, "Oh Luis Suarez, your teeth were offside." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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