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Brendan Rodgers Risks Ban by Hinting at Ref Bias in Manchester City vs Liverpool

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  Manager of Liverpool Brendan Rodgers looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium on December 26, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
Jan Kruger/Getty Images
Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistDecember 27, 2013

Brendan Rodgers has opened himself up to punishment after criticising the officials and the decision to appoint Bolton-born Lee Mason as referee for Liverpool's 2-1 loss to Manchester City on Thursday.

The Reds took the lead in their Boxing Day encounter through Philippe Coutinho, but goals from Vincent Kompany and Alvaro Negredo completed the hosts' comeback, with a number of controversial decisions along the way.

Speaking in the post-match press conference, Rodgers was quoted by Sky Sports saying:

I thought we never got any decision. The linesman on the offside one—he wasn't even on the same cut of grass. If you're working at this level you have to get it right. It's not even a difficult one.

It is a perfectly-timed run and he is given offside when he is through one on one on goal. These are big moments in big games.

There is another incident when Luis (Suarez) doesn't get a free-kick when Joleon Lescott went right through him. It is arguable it is a penalty at the end. Luis Suarez can't jump because he is tugging at his shirt.

As Radio 4's Nick Sutton shows, Rodgers' outburst dominated Friday's back pages, including this headline from the Telegraph:

The offside incident Rodgers spoke of was referring to a chance opened up by a run made by Raheem Sterling in behind the Citizens' defence.

One-on-one with Joe Hart and the scoreline still 0-0, the Reds youngster was pulled up for being offside by linesman Derek Eaton, but replays showed Sterling should have been permitted to carry on.

Talksport's Ian Abrahams could see where the visiting manager was coming from in regard to this particular call:

Rodgers pinpointed Mason specifically, saying he hopes this occasion proves referees should not be selected from a region close to either club:

I thought it was throughout the evening. Hopefully we don't have another Greater Manchester referee again on a Liverpool-Manchester game.

I don't want it to cloud the performance of my team. I never speak about officials, I normally stay clear of that, but I feel I need to protect the players. The officials make mistakes; I just felt the mistakes made tonight shouldn't have happened at this level. This is a big game.

Ex-Premier League referee Graham Poll commented on the matter in a Daily Mail column, suggesting not only that Rodgers' complaint hints of "sour grapes," but that an FA charge should be the punishment for such comments.

The Liverpool boss may profess to rarely critiquing the actions of officials, but it was only in Sept. 2012 that Rodgers was warned of his moaning, per the Daily Mail's Joe Bernstein.

In a way, one might sympathise with Rodgers, who merely feels another Premier League referee—born hundreds of miles from any geographical allegiance with a Greater Manchester club—could have been picked for the title-race clash.

However, Rodgers should place as much faith in the referees' selection process as any other match, irrespective of the prestige of the fixture.

Mason could easily point out that he allowed several clear tugs of the jersey from Martin Skrtel to go unpunished throughout the evening, all of which could easily have led to penalties against Liverpool.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  Brendan Rodgers, manager of Liverpool shakes hands with Manuel Pellegrini, manager of Manchester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool at Etihad Stadium on December 26, 2013
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The strength of Rodgers' claims make it hard to envision this being the last we hear of the manager's latest rant, with Poll's voice in the debate lending itself to the thought that retroactive punishment is a firm possibility.

Liverpool's next fixture is an away day at Chelsea. Whether Rodgers will be in the dugout for the contest remains to be seen.

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