GERRARD’S RED-MIDST, MATA’S MAGIC
Steven Gerrard strode onto the Anfield pitch at half time to take part in his last-ever match against Manchester United for Liverpool. 38 seconds later, the Liverpool skipper walked straight back off as the rid-midst descended and he inexplicably stamped on Ander Herrera, who laid on the floor, just after delivering a crunching tackle on Juan Mata.
[ RELATED: Gerrard apologizes for red card ]
Gerrard was shown a straight red card, while Herrera was shown a yellow for his tackle on Gerrard, and hamstrung his team as they battled hard but lost 2-1 to United to leave them five points off of fourth place with eight games to go. Speaking to Sky Sports right after the game, watch in the video above, Gerrard apologized to the fans as he will now miss at least three of his final nine matches for the Reds through suspension.
“I need to accept it; the decision was right. I’ve let down my team-mates and the fans. I take full responsibility,” Gerrard said. “I don’t know what caused it. Probably just a reaction to the initial tackle [by Herrera]. I shouldn’t say more about it really. I’ve just come out here to apologize to the dressing room and supporters.”
Everyone everywhere was simply wondering “why?” when they saw Gerrard purposely stamp on the leg of Herrera right under the nose of referee Martin Atkinson. Gerard had no complaints about the red card and rightly so. But let’s not act like he’s an angel on the pitch and hasn’t been involved in contentious moments before. As a youngster he was close to being hooked out of Liverpool’s academy for crunching tackles and had to curb the physical side of his game.
During his illustrious career Gerrard has been sent off eight times, four of those reds have been in derby games against Merseyside rivals Everton or Manchester United. On all four occasions he has been sent off for reckless challenges but when you earn your living as a marauding central midfielder, you run that risk. The fact that this was Gerrard’s last-ever game against bitter rivals United before he moves to the LA Galaxy and calls an end to his 17-year career definitely played a part in his crazy decision to stamp on Herrera. So did the fact that he was left on the bench for United’s biggest game of the season and that he is no longer deemed a regular by Brendan Rodgers after spending almost six weeks on the sidelines.
[ RELATED: Mata scores stunning goal of the season contender ]
The pent up frustration in Gerrard cost his team a shot at beating United on Sunday as they rallied but had no answer for Mata’s brilliance. This will be painful for fans of Liverpool to accept, but Gerrard’s slip at home to Chelsea played a pivotal role in the Reds not winning the title last season and his silly challenge on Herrera could cost them a top four spot this season. Leaving after 38 seconds on a red card was not they way Gerrard wanted to go out in his last game as Liverpool’s leading man versus fierce rivals United, but that’s what happened.
On the other side of the fence, Juan Mata had his best game in a United short. Above is a moment of pure genius produced by the majestic Mata.
He dug out this beauty in the 59th minute as time almost stood still inside Anfield when the Spaniard sprung himself in the air and volleyed home an incredible acrobatic effort from an almost impossible angle. That goal will be close to the hearts of United fans for the rest of time, as Mata’s two strikes on Sunday delivered a marvelous win which keeps them in pole position to finish in the top four.
[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]
After the game Louis van Gaal hailed Mata’s display, as the Spaniard who cost $45 million from Chelsea last January is finally fitting in at Old Trafford and becoming an integral part of LVG’s plans. Even if the Dutchman is slightly reticent to admit it and is a little uneasy about dishing out praise…
“Juan is one of my better players,” van Gaal said. “I looked for balance and now I have found a position where he plays very good and he also scores two goals and marvelous goals.”
Marvelous. Majestic. Mercurial. Mata is finally making his mark at Manchester United, and did so on Sunday in the biggest game of their season so far as one of the fiercest rivalry matches in world soccer did not disappoint. See the highlights, below.
REFS MUST GET VIDEO HELP
After two minutes of Manchester City’s game against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, Wilfried Bony went down outside the box in a challenge from Craig Dawson as he went through on goal. Clear red card. However referee Neil Swarbrick, as I’m sure you are aware of now, sent off Gareth McAuley instead of Dawson in a clear case of mistaken identity.
[ RELATED: Latest PL standings ]
Swarwick has since apologized and the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL) have called for video technology to be used to help out their officials in tight situations.
“We need to see what technology we can use to help get referees’ decisions more accurate. Football as a whole has to look at it,” Mike Riley, head of the PGMOL said. “All it takes is a split-second lapse in concentration. Neil had four or five elements to judge in half a second and it is that type of situation that would lend itself to technology.”
[ RELATED: English refs want video help ]
In essence it was the correct decision for a red card and a PK (just not to the right player) so West Brom can’t argue about the outcome too much as they got off to the worst possible start in their 3-0 defeat. But having video technology with the fourth official on the sidelines — or perhaps an official watching a TV screen in some neutral location like they do for contentious calls in NHL — would make the most sense.
It takes 10-15 seconds to take a quick look and see if the right player was sent off and if a decision regarding a penalty kick was for a dive or not. (Maybe that will help to get rid of diving too?) Those worried about every decision being placed under video scrutiny, I hear you. But perhaps a challenge system could be brought in so coaches have three of them during a match, but mostly this technology would be used to overturn incorrect decisions by a referee if the fourth official has clear video evidence to show that a mistake has been made.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
Referees sending off incorrect players hasn’t happened a whole lot, but in the past 12 months it has occurred three times which is three more times than it should happen. With Kieran Gibbs given a red when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain handled on the line for Arsenal against Chelsea last season and Wes Brown was sent off instead of John O’Shea for Sunderland at Manchester United earlier this campaign, big mistakes have been made. With the pace of the game and scrutiny on officials from pundits, fans and outsiders who can see every angle in a replay close to 10 seconds after the incident in question took place, why can’t referees get that kind of technology to help them out?
Below are the views of our panel as to how referees can be helped out.
KANE DESERVES CHANCE TO LEAD ENGLAND
On Saturday Harry Kane scored another Premier League hat trick to take his tally in the PL to 19 this season, and 29 in all competitions as the man named PL Player of the Month for January and February kept his insane hot-streak going in the 4-3 win over Leicester City.
Kane, 21, was called up to England’s full national team squad this week for the first time and the Tottenham Hotspur forward deserves the chance to lead the line for the Three Lions in their upcoming games against Lithuania and Italy, not just sit on the bench for the “experience.”
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Moving through England’s youth ranks and scoring goals at every level, it’s about time he got his chance after a season of blossom few would have predicted last August. Sure, Kane had potential, but the rapid rate of his development has stunned observers and provided Roy Hodgson with a welcome selection dilemma up front.
How do you fit Daniel Sturridge, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Kane into and England lineup? Hint: you play Kane up top on his own. With Sturridge still easing his way back into things after injury, Rooney a guaranteed starter and Welbeck a little off the boil, Hodgson’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, or a variation of 4-3-3, would suit Kane in the lone central role and allow Rooney the freedom to create in behind him. On the wings Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge would provide pace, trickery and balance, as Kane and Sturridge could well interchange as we often see both drifting out wide for their club teams to create havoc.
Simply put, Kane’s time is now. Yes, he is just 21 but at the moment he is carrying Tottenham’s top four hopes and is a talisman who a team can be built around. England awaits the Hurri-Kane.
Tim Howard was the only U.S. national team player to taste success in the Premier League this weekend. Geoff Cameron went the full 90 at right back, hear his thoughts on the Potters chase for their best-ever PL finish in the video above, but Crystal Palace made Stoke pay for slack defending.
Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan couldn’t help his side shutout Swansea as a late goal saw Villa’s winning-streak end at three in all competitions as the Midlands clubs are still entrenched in a relegation battle. As for Howard, he helped Everton squeak by QPR to ease their relegation concerns after a tough exit from the Europa League last Thursday.
Premier League Playback comes out every Monday as PST’s Editor and Lead Writer takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here.