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Is Luis Suarez a victim? Brendan Rodgers thinks so

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Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists that Luis Suarez has been victimized by the 10 match ban handed down by the FA and that “the punishment has been made against the man and not the incident.”

Since Suarez’ now infamous bite on Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic during last Sunday’s 2-2 draw, the Uruguayan was charged with violent conduct and handed a 10 match ban by an independent disciplinary panel. Liverpool, who have still not received the full report, have until Friday afternoon to appeal the decision.

In the meantime, Brendan Rodgers stepped forward to discuss the incident. “It is the severity of the ban that has hurt most,” said Rodgers. “That is something we are bitterly disappointed with – not so much the ban because everyone has seen it and Luis was very open and honest to know it was wrong.

“You can only compare it with similar incidents we’ve had. There have been two similar incidents both in 2006. One player [Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe] received no ban and has continued to be picked by the FA for the England team. The other player [defender Sean Hessey, who was charged for biting in a game between Chester City and Stockport County in 2006] received a five-game ban. So when Luis receives a 10-game ban it’s hard to understand.

“I honestly believe the punishment has been made against the man and not the incident.”

While it may be tough to grasp the logic behind Rodgers’ defense of Suarez, it’s hardly surprising that the manager has chosen to stand behind the Uruguayan. This is what Brendan Rodgers does, at least when it comes to his star player. Whether he’d do the same for Martin Skrtel or Jose Enrique remains to be seen.

Rodgers had Suarez’ back throughout both of the player’s prior incidents this season. When Suarez was repeatedly accused of diving (and exacerbated those accusations by celebrating his goal against Everton with a dive in front of David Moyes), Rodgers had his back. When Suarez handled the ball prior to scoring Liverpool’s winner in the FA Cup third round tie at Mansfield, Rodgers defended him.

In truth, it’s exactly what any good manager should do for his player, so long as it’s justified. In the context of diving and handball accusations, it was big of Rodgers to step up and defend the Uruguayan when the rest of the world was out to get him. But when it comes to the biting incident, Rodgers’ defense of Suarez is questionable and his assertion that the player is a victim is borderline asinine.

The claim that the “punishment has been made against the man and not the incident” evidences Rodgers’ misunderstanding of basic principles of justice. In any court system in the world, prior incidents are always factored in when determining punishment. You simply cannot consider punishment for an incident without understanding the man behind the incident.

In a criminal context, multiple violations always results in an extended sentence. Even in many a civil context, liability is easier to prove for repeat offenders. For example, in the context of a dog bite (which feels appropriate when discussing Suarez) a plaintiff in the U.S. must prove negligence of the owner so long as no prior bite has been proven. However, if the owner has been previously found liable for his dog biting someone, a plaintiff merely need to prove strict liability – a much lower and easier threshold to meet than negligence. In other words, history matters.

So was this a punishment made against the man? Absolutely. And rightfully so.

In fact, the 10 match ban seems quite fair when considering Suarez’ bite history. When the striker bit the collarbone of PSV Eindhoven midfielder Otman Bakkal in 2010, the Dutch Football Federation handed him a seven match ban. Logically, this punishment provided the FA with the floor for the potential ban. Anything below that number would have made a mockery of the FA while anything over 10 matches would have seemed egregious given the chomp didn’t cause actual injury to Ivanovic.

For all the criticism the FA has received this season, they got this incident right. One hopes that, in time, Brendan Rodgers will arrive at this understanding.

VIDEO: Jeison Murillo’s incredible bicycle from a corner kick

MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 17:  (R-L) Jeison Murillo of FC Internazionale celebrates his first goal with Geoffrey Kondogbia during the TIM Cup match between FC Internazionale and Bologna FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 17, 2017 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)
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Look away now, Andy Carroll. Take a bow, Jeison Murillo.

[ VIDEOS: All in a week’s work — Messi free kick no. 1 | Messi free kick no. 2 ]

Just three days after Carroll scored the bicycle-kick goal of the year (so we thought), here comes Murillo, Inter Milan’s 24-year-old Colombian striker, to steal his thunder (below video). The fact he did it directly from a corner kick, with the ball traveling nearly 50 yards before flinging his body into the air and striking the ball so cleanly, (somehow) trumps Carroll’s accomplishment from Saturday.

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings — Tight at the top… and bottom ]

Sensational goals come in twos now, apparently, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Olivier Giroud scored stunning scorpion-kick goals (WATCH HERE and HERE) just days apart earlier in the season.

FA Cup roundup: Burnley, Crystal Palace advance to 4th round

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 17: Christian Benteke of Crystal Palace (C) celebrates scoring his sides first goal with Andros Townsend of Crystal Palace (L) during the Emirates FA Cup third round replay between Crystal Palace and Bolton Wanderers at Selhurst Park on January 17, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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A roundup of all of Tuesday’s action in FA Cup third-round replays…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Burnley 2-0 Sunderland

Sam Vokes and Andre Gray grabbed goals for Burnley, who opted for a largely first-choice lineup in Tuesday’s replay. Sunderland, meanwhile, went with a mix-and-match bunch and slumped to six games without a win (all competitions), meaning they can focus solely on Premier League survival from here on out. Burnley will host Championship side Bristol City in the fourth round next Saturday, Jan. 28.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

Crystal Palace 2-1 Bolton Wanderers

Sam Allardyce picked up his first win as Palace boss, courtesy of a Christian Benteke brace scored nine minutes apart in the second half, as the Eagles came from behind to beat League One side Bolton at Selhurst Park. James Henry put the visitors three minutes into the second half, but Benteke hit back in the 68th and 77th minutes to improve Allardyce’s record to one win, two draws and three losses (all competitions). Palace will host Manchester City in the fourth round next Saturday.

Tuesday’s FA Cup scoreboard

AFC Wimbledon 1-3 Sutton United
Barnsley 1-2 (AET) Blackpool
Fleetwood Town 0-1 Bristol City
Lincoln City 1-0 Ipswich Town

AFCON: Ayew propels Ghana to victory; Egypt struggle vs. Mali

FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 21:  Andre Ayew of Ghana celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group G match between Germany and Ghana at Castelao on June 21, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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A roundup of all of Tuesday’s action in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations…

Ghana 1-0 Uganda

PORT-GENTIL, Gabon (AP) Andre Ayew scored a penalty as Ghana beat Uganda 1-0 on Tuesday in a lackluster opening to the four-time champions’ bid for a first African Cup of Nations title in 35 years.

Ghana took control of Group D after seven-time champion Egypt struggled in a 0-0 draw with Mali in the other group match.

Ghana has three points, Egypt and Mali one each and Uganda zero.

Ayew, a West Ham winger, netted in the 32nd minute after Asamoah Gyan was held back by Isaac Isinde in the penalty area in Port-Gentil.

Avram Grant, a former Chelsea manager, is looking to lead Ghana to a second successive final but go better than 2015 when his team lost to Ivory Coast.

Uganda has also finished runner-up in the continental championship but the trip to the final in 1978 was the last time it qualified until making the Gabon event.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

Mali 0-0 Egypt

Later, 44-year-old Egypt goalkeeper Essam El Hadary became the oldest player in tournament history when he came on for injured Ahmed El Shenawy midway through the first half.

El Hadary, who celebrated his birthday two days ago, is participating in his seventh African Cup, having picked up winners’ medals in 2006, 2008 and 2010.

Egypt’s standout forward Mohamed Salah struggled and was replaced midway through the second half.

Mali, looking to improve on its third-place finishes in 2012 and 2013, produced many more chances.

Egypt failed to qualify for the last three editions of the tournament.

Wednesday’s AFCON schedule

Gabon vs. Burkina-Faso — 11 a.m. ET
Cameroon vs. Guinea-Bissau — 2 p.m. ET

Vertonghen to miss 2 months with ankle ligament damage

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14: Jan Vertonghen of Tottenham Hotspur receives treatment from the medical team during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion at White Hart Lane on January 14, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Jan Vertronghen is expected to miss at least two months while recovering from ankle ligament damage, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time, with Tottenham Hotspur currently second in the Premier League, seven points back of leaders Chelsea.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Vertonghen suffered the injury in the 65th minute of Saturday’s 4-0 thrashing of West Bromwich Albion, when he went full-stretch to clear the ball along the sideline before landing on the outside of his left foot, causing the ankle to roll violently. The 29-year-old Belgian international was in clear, visible agony as he sat on the field at White Hart Lane and eventually limped down the tunnel.

The Guardian described the injury as “a tear lying between grades two and three, damage which had left Vertonghen in tears as he departed the turf at White Hart Lane and would normally rule him out at the very least until mid-March.”

[ MORE: PL Power Rankings — Tight at the top… and bottom ]

In the meantime, Kevin Wimmer and Ben Davies will be tasked with filling the void for a Tottenham side which has conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League this season (14 in 21 games). (As a small aside, 19-year-old American center back Cameron Carter-Vickers is likely set for a handful of appearances as well, perhaps in the Europa League round of 32 and FA Cup fourth round, with Wimmer and Davies called upon for additional PL service.)

Wimmer filled in for Vertonghen for nearly three months last season, at the exact same point of the campaign (Jan. 20 through April 2). In Wimmer’s 10 PL starts during that stretch (Vertonghen out with knee ligament damage), Spurs conceded seven goals (seven wins and two draws). The loss of Toby Aldeweireld, for nearly two months back in October of this season, proved a far greater blow (two wins in six PL games), and Spurs should once again manage just fine for as long as Aldeweireld remains healthy alongside Eric Dier, Wimmer and Davies.