Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish calls on referees to explain decisions
By Tim Rich
Kenny Dalglish has called upon referees to start explaining their decisions, before Liverpool begin thinking they are victims of a conspiracy.
The Anfield manager has been exasperated by a series of decisions in the club's last three games that came to a head on Saturday when Michael Oliver refused to award a penalty for handball against the Aston Villa defender Eric Lichaj and booked Luis Suarez for diving. What particularly angered Dalglish was Oliver's alleged comment to Dirk Kuyt that the American defender had been "unlucky".
Dalglish argued that Liverpool had been the victims of injustice in their two previous matches – the defeat at Newcastle that featured an unpunished handball by Danny Simpson on the line and, far more contentiously, a disallowed goal in the 2-1 home loss to Wigan. Replays suggested that Suarez used his arm to score.
"In the last three games there have been blatant decisions that have gone against us and are, frankly, inexcusable and I'd say inexplicable as well," said Dalglish. "I won't raise it with the Referees' Association. I have raised it now [in this interview] and it is up to them. I really think it should be their concern, don't you?
"It would be helpful and more transparent if they told us, if they explained their decisions to us or even just held their hands up and said: 'Sorry, I got that wrong,' and we can see they have integrity. But they never say anything. We don't get everything right, so it is understandable they don't either, but a wee bit of respect towards us would help the situation immensely.
"Otherwise, people might think there is a conspiracy. We can't believe that, we can't let it affect us and take it into the games that are coming up because that would damage us. We have to keep going and ensure it doesn't affect the players. We can't let it get to that, where we think it is a conspiracy. We have to believe it will turn for us and we will get luck on our side. We are certainly due some luck after what has gone against us."
Dalglish may have taken some comfort from reports yesterday that the assistant referee Dave Bryan had been stood down from the Blackburn match. Bryan faced criticism on Saturday after Chelsea scored two contentious goals to beat Wigan.
As Dalglish prepares his team to play Blackburn, where a 3-1 defeat in January last year signalled the end of Roy Hodgson's tenure as manager and what was dubbed "The Return of the King", some of his players admitted that the fear factor had long left Anfield. "When teams come to Anfield, they have to have fear because they are playing Liverpool," said Jose Enrique. "But it hasn't really happened this year – we have dropped too many points at home. This cannot happen next season. We have to be stronger at home."
The naked fact is that Liverpool have won five times at Anfield in the league this season. In 1954 they were relegated with seven home wins.
The Spanish defender, who has been more than a qualified success since Dalglish brought him from Newcastle, admitted the last few months have been "mad" and "difficult". He also pointed out that: "It was not because of the referee that we did not beat Aston Villa."
Those last few mad and difficult months have seen the club win the Carling Cup, since when Liverpool's league form has collapsed. Unlike the returning Daniel Agger, who tried to argue that nobody at the club had turned their thoughts to Saturday's FA Cup semi-final with Everton, Enrique said it was virtually all that was holding the season together.
"We have to finish as high as possible but it is true that the league isn't that important now – the FA Cup is," he said. "In the league we aren't really playing for anything. Wembley is different. Playing against Everton is one of the best games we could have had – a semi-final and a derby. We will both be going at it 200 per cent and we have to win.
"It is true that we wanted to play in the Champions League next season but that opportunity is gone now. We will play in the Europa League; it's not that bad but it is not the Champions League. But we have won one trophy and, if we could win two in a season, that would be amazing."
Blackburn: ROBINSON, ORR, DANN, HANLEY, MARTIN OLSSON, PEDERSEN, N'ZONZI, DUNN, MARCUS OLSSON, YAKUBU, HOLIETT
Liverpool: DONI, ENRIQUE, AGGER, SKRTEL, FLANAGAN, DOWNING, GERRARD, SPEARING, HENDERSON, SUAREZ, CARROLL
Kick-off 8pm, Sky Sports 1. Odds Home 5/2; draw 12/5; away 11/10. Referee A Taylor (Cheshire).