Reds boss Rodgers rages at referee

Reuters and AP, London

Fri, Nov 30, 2012 - Page 20

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was fuming after his side were denied a penalty for a near “assault” on Steven Gerrard in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to Tottenham Hotspur.

Liverpool, who have yet to be awarded a penalty in their 14 games so far this season, saw their eight-match unbeaten streak in the Premier League come to an end at White Hart Lane.

Rodgers was incensed after referee Phil Dowd turned down penalty appeals for challenges on skipper Gerrard and Luis Suarez, and said Liverpool had been getting the raw end of decisions all season long.

“Gerrard’s was nearly assault, how was that not a penalty?” he asked. “Second one, Suarez spins and William Gallas swings his left foot and he goes down.”

“We know we need to be more clinical, but to arrive at this stage of the season and not have had a penalty — I don’t know what the players have to do,” Rodgers said.

“It racks up the points and I hear people and pundits say it evens itself out over the season — so the second half of the season we’re going to get a lot of decisions,” he said.

The home side had the better of the first half and Gareth Bale’s strong run and cross allowed Aaron Lennon to put them ahead in the seventh minute.

Bale doubled the lead 10 minutes later with a free-kick that wrongfooted goalkeeper Pepe Reina, but he gifted Liverpool a lifeline 18 minutes from time when Lennon’s goalline hack smacked him in the face and flew in for a painful own-goal.

Rodgers praised Liverpool’s performance on the night and predicted improvement from their current 12th place in the Premier League, though he cautioned that it would take time to build a squad capable of challenging for titles.

“The performance level and our tempo and rhythm were relentless. If we keep playing like that, we’ll climb up the table,” Rodgers said.

Meanwhile, Robin van Persie preserved Manchester United’s narrow lead at the top of the table with the quickest goal of the season, scoring after just 32 seconds in a 1-0 win over West Ham United.

Manchester City remained a point behind their neighbors after a 2-0 victory at Wigan Athletic, courtesy of goals by Mario Balotelli and James Milner, but Rafa Benitez’s tough start to life as interim Chelsea manager continued with a lackluster 0-0 home draw against Fulham.

The point at least lifted Chelsea into third place above West Bromwich Albion, who lost 3-1 at Swansea City.

Arsenal were held 1-1 at Everton after taking the lead after less than a minute through Theo Walcott.

His early goal on his return from a shoulder injury was canceled out by Marouane Fellaini’s shot from outside the area in the 28th.

Stoke City came from behind to beat Newcastle United 2-1, a fourth straight loss for the visitors, while Mark Clattenburg — the referee at the center of recent racism accusations — made his return to the middle in Southampton’s 1-1 draw at home to Norwich City.

Benitez was greeted with roars of disapproval prior to his first match in charge — a 0-0 home draw with Manchester City on Sunday — but fans gave him a less hostile reception three days on.

Instead, there was a general feeling of apathy around Stamford Bridge which lingered throughout a listless encounter.

Chelsea have clearly improved defensively under Benitez, but their attacking spark has disappeared. Boos rang out at the final whistle, with Chelsea having created few clear-cut chances.

The Spaniard needs a slice of luck that Van Persie was granted at Old Trafford, with the Netherlands striker’s shot looping up off James Collins and over stranded goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.

“We got a great start,’’ said Ferguson, whose side has more often than not conceded first this season. “You hope to go on from a start like that and some of our football was very good, but we never quite finished them off.’’

For City, it was the complete opposite, starting sluggishly at Wigan, but ending well to maintain their unbeaten start. The champions’ goals came in the space of four minutes, with Balotelli marking his return to the starting lineup by burying a loose ball in the 69th.

Milner, a second-half substitute, wrapped up victory in the 72nd, only to go off with a hamstring problem.

Late goals by Jonathan Walters and Cameron Jerome allowed Stoke to overhaul Newcastle, who had gone in front through Papiss Demba Cisse.

An error by Paulo Gazzaniga gifted Norwich a point at Southampton, with the ’keeper fumbling a Robert Snodgrass free-kick into his own net. Rickie Lambert had put Saints ahead in a match refereed by Clattenburg, less than a week after being cleared of racism allegations.