Monday, August 20, 2007

Ref Dropped After Penalty Blunder

Premier League referee Rob Styles has been dropped from this weekend's matches after awarding Chelsea a controversial penalty in Sunday's match at Liverpool.

Styles gave Chelsea a penalty when Florent Malouda went down despite minimal contact from Liverpool defender Steve Finnan and Frank Lampard converted the spot kick to give the London side a 1-1 draw at Anfield.

"(Styles) looked at the video with the decision and he's admitted that he got it wrong," chief of referees Keith Hackett was quoted as saying on Sky Sports News on Monday.

"I've left a message with (Liverpool manager) Rafa Benitez to apologise on behalf of the PGMO (Professional Game Match Officials) for the error," Hackett added.

"I did in pre-season say to managers and the general public that accountability exists and we do, at the PGMO, expect referees to get the big decisions correct.

"On this occasion this is wrong and therefore Rob will not be officiating next weekend."

Benitez was incensed by the penalty decision that left Liverpool, who had taken the lead through Fernando Torres, in seventh place with four points from two games at the start of a season in which he is determined they win their first championship title since 1990. Chelsea are second with seven points from three games.

Styles also appeared to book Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien for a second time in the match shortly after the equaliser but did not send him off.

However, Hackett explained that Styles, having booked Chelsea captain John Terry still had his yellow card in his hand when he raised his arm to indicate a free kick.

"He showed the card to John Terry, then held the card to indicate an indirect free kick," he said.

"In fairness, he forgot to put the card away so it was a basic... admin error as against an error in application of law but it is again something where we'll look closely at the video to ensure we don't get a repeat of that."

Hackett said a linesman at Saturday's Fulham game against Middlesbrough had also been dropped. The London side were denied an equaliser when a shot by striker David Healy appeared to have crossed the line, a fact confirmed by television replays.

LiverpooL 1 - 1 Chelsea

Liverpool and Chelsea played out a draw which suggested the Barclays Premier League season could be a war of attrition right to the end.

The two clubs have played each other 16 times in three seasons and familiarity clearly breeds contempt with nine bookings and Hampshire referee Rob Styles coming in for flak from both sets of players as he fought to maintain order.

Fernando Torres' excellent first goal for Liverpool was all but forgotten as the yellow cards were waved, five for Chelsea and four for Liverpool. Captains Steven Gerrard and John Terry were among the bookings.

Chelsea battled away after going behind and were rewarded with a controversial penalty that Frank Lampard drove past Jose Reina.

Steve Finnan was adjudged to have brought down Florent Malouda, but the incident looked more like the Frenchman jumping between Finnan and Jamie Carragher before crashing to the ground.

The incident set the tone for the rest of a fractious match in which Styles almost lost control. In the latter stages he appeared to book Michael Essien for a second time without sending off the Ghanaian only for the fourth official reveal the booking had been issued to Terry.

Broken toe or not, Gerrard was there to skipper Liverpool against a Chelsea side who had their own captain Terry back from injury.

It was never a cordial meeting between international skipper and his deputy, the pair involved in frequent verbal exchanges during an increasingly feisty clash.

Chelsea included Essien in their defence, who was pressed into service despite a groin injury because Jose Mourinho was without defenders Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira.

Chelsea used Essien at right-back and John Obi Mikel as a holding midfielder, with Salomon Kalou trying to push on from midfield to aid Didier Drogba.

Malouda, who chose Chelsea ahead of Liverpool when he moved from Lyon in the summer, and Shaun Wright-Phillips were also quick to attack in a brave Mourinho system.

Liverpool went for a straight-forward 4-4-2 with Riise keen to exploit any unfamiliarity to right-back from Essien.

And the threat was demonstrated when Riise appeared in yards of space to take a Steve Finnan cross-field ball only for Petr Cech to come flying off his line to avert the danger.

Essien was booked for sending Alvaro Arbeloa flying on the touchline, then Chelsea's vulnerability on their right flank saw them a goal behind on 16 minutes.

Gerrard played the ball with the outside of his right foot, finding Torres heading into the area.

The Spain international took on Tal Ben-Haim, leaving the ex-Bolton man in just a couple of yards before squeezing a clever side-foot shot just inside Cech's far post.

Anfield went wild and the £20million man was an instant hero as he was mobbed by his delirious colleagues.

Chelsea responded with a Drogba free-kick that was deflected wide and Kalou saw a six-yard box chance disappear as he failed to shoot quickly.

Gerrard mopped up with a ferocious challenge on Drogba to clear.

The match got more heated and Dirk Kuyt was booked for a trip on Lampard.

The atmosphere deteriorated further after Chelsea complaints to referee Rob Styles over challenges on Malouda and Terry, the latter involved in an exchange of words with the perpetrator, Torres.

Pennant was then booked for dissent after being penalised for a foul.

Gerrard was next into the book for a foul on Mikel, the half ending with Torres limping away after a heavy challenge and plenty of exchanges between England colleagues on both sides.

Chelsea brought on Claudio Pizarro for Kalou at the break, to provide better support for Drogba. And the Peruvian made an instant impact.

First he nodded on a Lampard corner for Terry to head just over, and then he stretched at the far post to head wide himself.

Much of Liverpool's play in the opening half was geared to containment, but they were more adventurous attacking the Kop end and Gerrard and Xabi Alonso both saw chances go wide while a Riise free-kick was charged down.

But on 61 minutes, Chelsea were level from the penalty spot. It was a controversial decision by referee Styles to penalise Steve Finnan for a challenge on Malouda.

It looked as if Malouda had jumped between Finnan and Carragher before tumbling and Carragher was booked for arguing before Lampard drove the spot-kick home.

The bookings continued and Ben-Haim's for dissent soon after was the third caution in four minutes.

On 67 minutes, Ryan Babel replaced Pennant, who had just set up Riise for a power drive just wide.

Lampard was soon booked for dissent, with Terry following, Chelsea fuming at what they perceived as a Torres dive looking for a free-kick.

There was more argument involving Essien before the free-kick went Liverpool's way. The Ghanian appeared to be booked for a second time but Styles later confirmed that only Terry had been yellow-carded.

What was certain was that the game had deteriorated into a nasty, spiteful battle.

Cech did well to keep out a close-range Riise effort as Liverpool pressed again. Crouch taking over from Riise with seven minutes left.

Kuyt's flicked header just cleared the bar before Alex came on for his Chelsea debut in place of Malouda.

Chelsea were now intent on the point, which they achieved after Babel skimmed a late effort inches wide.