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That Luis Suarez had a hand in three of the game’s four goals demands that we talk about him, both for his good and, unfortunately in the immediate wake of the match, more of the bad.
First, the good.
It is a testament to the sheer brilliance that Suarez possesses at his feet that even despite a reputation and penchant for controversy, he was nominated as a Player of the Year candidate. And while he is still not back to his top form yet, we saw two of his most important attributes this season, as his creativity and technique produced a classy lobbed cross for Daniel Sturridge to turn home, and his finishing and positioning earned him—and Liverpool—a headed equalizer at the death.
But then, there is also the bad.
And on Sunday, we saw both extremes at Anfield. There are those who say that the penalty Kevin Friend awarded for Suarez’s handball was payback given his history, first against Ghana in the World Cup 2010 quarterfinals, then earlier this season against Mansfield Town in the FA Cup. Except that, while it could have been red-card offence instead of a yellow, the only underlying similarity is that handball was involved.
Accidental or not, this was a case of reputation coming before the incident.
The bite, however, was an altogether different matter. It is a tragedy (tragicomedy?) that a player of Suarez’s ilk is so incompetent at controlling his emotions on the field, but for someone to repeat a similar offence—having committed the same against PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal in his last appearance for Ajax—shows the sheer inability of Suarez to learn from such punishments.
Perhaps less emphasized is that any potential sanctions or bans from the English FA is dependent on Mr. Friend’s post-match report, but just as Suarez was beginning to win over his critics with an improved simulation record, it looks as if he might be missing extended match action due to misconduct for his second season in a row.
And that’s not good enough.