Stop me if this sounds familiar: Liverpool struggled to break down Stoke City’s defense. Want another one? Stop me if this sounds familiar: Luis Suarez tried (and failed miserably) to draw a penalty in the box.
Let’s start with the first one. It’s not exactly breaking news that Stoke City are tough to score against. They live up to their reputation as a team that would rather wrestle or play rugby than pass a ball around. It’s also no secret that Liverpool’s biggest issue right now is scoring. So it should come as no surprise that the Reds failed to produce a goal against the Potters over the weekend. If you’re of a certain mindset you also noticed that, once again, a handful of Liverpool shots managed to strike the woodwork. Many will curse the football gods for such poor luck. I see it as poor finishing.
There’s really not much to tell with this one. The match was everything we expected. Stoke came out and held their ground with 10 men behind the ball and roughed up Liverpool’s newfound strategy of trying to pass it into the net.
The moment that had everyone talking afterwards was a hilariously poor effort by Luis Suarez to draw a penalty inside the box. Referee Lee Mason was not impressed, ignored Suarez, and the match went on. Such a simple turn of events and yet people think that the debate over diving is infinitely more complicated. Potters manager Tony Pulis stated afterwards that he believes such an offense should constitute a three match ban.
Suarez is not the first player to try and fool a referee and he won’t be the last. He’s probably not even the best at performing such a “dark art”. But he has a history and a reputation that goes back to what is (in my opinion) a far greater sin: deliberately handling the ball. He’s an easy target, especially if you believe Sergio Aguero’s accusations of foreign bias among England’s top officials. I do tend to agree with him, but that’s another story for another day.
Look, nobody likes it when players dive. But it’s an issue that dates pretty far back in the game’s history. And contrary to a popular opinion, it is NOT an easily solved issue. There is too much grey area, too much subjective-ness for a referee to determine in real time whether or not a player was truly fouled. But when it is as obvious as Suarez made it over the weekend, I think the best way to deal with it is the same way Lee Mason handled it: ignore it and move on to keep up with the run of play. If a player has reputation like Suarez’s, then everything balances itself out when the player in question is truly fouled and doesn’t receive the call. He hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt and thus has been punished for his acting. Why did we have to pursue further punishment. I love this sport BECAUSE it’s so subjective. It’s problems (well some anyways) cannot be solved with technology. It’s athlete vs. athlete and may the best man win.
So the next time a player blatantly tries to deceive the referee, go ahead and complain at your own risk. I’ll be watching the counterattack that just developed as a result of the no call.
“Walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone!”