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Martin Atkinson's decision to show Jack Rodwell a red card ruined the game as a spectacle and as a contest. The challenge was not even a foul. Rodwell went in without his studs up, got the ball and brushed Luis Suarez on his follow through.
Before the red card, the game had been an open, end-to-end contest. Everton even dominated the statistical columns, reeling off six shots to one and won a number of early corners. Admittedly, neither side were truly on top, but once Rodwell left, the game's dynamics completely transformed.
Atkinson's last visit to Goodison Park ended with further controversy. In added time against Manchester United, Everton broke and attacked with four on two. As the Toffees closed in on goal, Atkinson decided to blow for full time, despite Everton's clear goal scoring opportunity.
Luckily for Atkinson, the players did not hear his whistle and played on, eventually missing the chance. However, the call to end the game riled David Moyes and he and his assistant, Steve Round, both collected fines for their fierce on-field verbal confrontation with Atkinson.
Moyes had expressed surprise at Atkinson's appearance in this pivotal game for Everton. Prior to kickoff, he had issued more red cards than any other referee this season. The Merseyside derby will always be a feisty, volatile game, but needs careful refereeing, something Atkinson did not provide on Saturday.
The derby has now produced seven more red cards than any other Premier League fixture. Atkinson's decision to assert himself, brandishing a red card to try and prevent further potential skirmishes, was an unforgivable error.
Four years ago, again against Liverpool, Mark Clattenburg gave one of the worst refereeing displays in recent memory. He reduced Everton to nine men, awarded Liverpool two penalties, ignored the worst foul of the game (a Kung Fu kick by Dirk Kuyt) and similarly missed the most blatant penalty of the match, as Jamie Carragher wrestled Joleon Lescott to the ground in the last minute of the game.
Amazingly, Clattenburg is yet to return to Goodison Park since. He is still detested by many Everton fans and after Saturday's showing, Atkinson may now have reached a similar status among Evertonians.
This point is certainly not trying to appear at all deluded and claim that with 11 against 11 Everton would have triumphed. As David Moyes made a point of saying after the final whistle, playing Liverpool is one of the toughest assignments of the season. Beating them will always be hard, but doing so with 10 men for 70 minutes is nigh-on impossible.