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Brendan Rodgers: “I thought the best team lost” Sunday at the Emirates

Feb 16, 2014, 5:42 PM EDT

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Both teams were left with reasons to complain about referee Howard Webb after Arsenal’s 2-1 victory over Liverpool Sunday at the Emirates, but with the Gunners on to the FA Cup’s quarterfinals, only one team was harmed by the game’s controversial decisions. Seeing Arsenal get a small bit of revenge for the 5-1 loss they suffered at Anfield, Liverpool were left to bemoan what ifs after Webb’s whistle failed to the Reds a crucial late call.

“[We] are bitterly disappointed not to get something and not to get another penalty, which I thought was a blatant penalty,” Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers told BT Sport after the match, as relayed by the Independent.

The controversial non-call occurred late, after Liverpool had already been awarded a penalty when Lukas Podolski brought down Luis Suárez. The second incident came after a blocked free kick was followed by Suárez working his way into the penalty area. This time, however, contact from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlian failed to draw a call from the official.

“It was probably more clear and blatant than the first,” Rodgers said, later going on to say “I thought the best team lost.”

To the extent they reflect the actual action, the numbers support Rodgers’ claim. Liverpool dominated possession (57 percent) and put seven shots on target to Arsenal’s three, and while much of that can be attributed to the fact Oxlade-Chamberlain put the Gunners up in the 16th minute, Liverpool still controlled the game.

But claiming control of a game reflects your worthiness to win is as short-sighted as saying all calls should go in your favor, or implying every infraction in the penalty area is always called. There’s an inherent variability to the game that you have to not only accept but overcome. The variability includes matches where a referees’ decisions harm you more than your opponents. The best teams find a way to deal with these circumstances.

Howard Webb may have made mistakes on Sunday, but Liverpool did, too. They failed to adjust to a set of circumstances that worked in Arsenal’s favor. While Rodgers can complain about Webb’s performance, he should also ask why his players failed to respond.

  1. lunasceiling - Feb 16, 2014 at 5:51 PM

    Yeah, Oxlade-Chamberlain probably did bring Suarez down on that play. The problem is, for most of the game Suarez had been dropping like someone hit by sniper fire every time anyone so much as jostled him. Moreover, it’s not the first time he’s done this, and his reputation precedes him. Webb had turned a blind eye by then, and Oxlade-Chamberlain would likely have needed to hospitalize Suarez to get Webb to point to the spot. Wrong (no)call, but Suarez in part brought it on himself.

  2. Jenna - Feb 16, 2014 at 10:38 PM

    Suarez’s playacting doesn’t do him any favors, that’s for sure. You could tell Webb was sick to death of him by the end. That said, I would love to hear Webb’s reasoning on why he didn’t make the call. I know we WON’T, but I’d love to know…

    • jamezyjamez - Feb 17, 2014 at 11:30 AM

      true, he’d never say it but the reasons for not calling the PK on Ox was a combination of the first PK call being rather soft and over-embellished and suarez overacting for the entire game. i found the girlish scream after kos barely nicked his foot near midfield (actually suarez hit him on long follow-thru..likely on purpose) to be the funniest. of course, webb called the foul on that one.

  3. mikeymo74 - Feb 17, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    Gerard should have been sent off a few minutes after that anyway, so the Gunners may have won the game even if that penalty was given.

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