These Reds, hey? These Reds have the sort of bottle I can only dream of having if I ever have to hold my nerve for some sort of critical reason at some point in the future. I must admit, by the half-time whistle my head had gone. The missed chances felt like the sort that might come back to haunt us. Say what you want about Neil Warnock – and over the past twenty-four hours I’ve said plenty – but the Cardiff manager knows how to frustrate teams when he puts his mind to it. From growing the grass that little bit longer through to not watering the pitch close to kick-off, the troublesome former Sheffield United manager looked for every trick in the book to give his team an advantage. He’s entirely welcome too, of course. Despite the moaners, whingers and wind-up merchants of other clubs saying as much, the conditions on the pitch do make a difference else no club would bother to water their pitch before a match. He did what he needed to do and it almost worked. Almost.
Very few, if any, ball boys/girls at Cardiff today. Pitch hasn’t been watered. Both factors slowing game down and frustrating #LFC’s attack. Neither illegal. Neil Warnock doing all he can to level the playing field #CARLIV pic.twitter.com/PRyc9kov1p
— Ben Smith (@BSmith) April 21, 2019
Ultimately Liverpool were, as we all expected they would be, too good for Cardiff. We had more skill, more intelligence and more desire to win, so the game was really only going to go one way once Gini Wijnaldum swept home Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner kick. The penalty, which is what I’m going to go on to talk about here, was nailed on and James Milner was absolutely right to take the ball of Mo Salah and put it in the back of the net. This isn’t about individual glory it’s about the team winning the ultimate prize and Milner is ice-cool from the penalty spot. If Salah wants the Golden Boot then he might want to ask himself how he spurned the numerous chances he was presented with during the match as opposed to why the assigned penalty taker took the penalty. I was frustrated at half-time but I really should have learnt my lesson with these magnificent Reds. Something I’ll have to bear in mind when Huddersfield rock up at Anfield on Friday night, given I’ve already persuaded myself they’ll somehow get a draw. The biggest talking point for me, though, is that some morons somehow think that wasn’t a penalty yesterday…
Not Every Penalty Is Controversial
I find the notion that the penalty was anything other than absolutely nailed on truly bizarre. I can’t make out whether it comes from a desperate desire for everything to be controversial or whether there is something more sinister at play. I understand that in the day and age of twenty-four rolling sports news the pundits have to find something to talk about, yet it hasn’t gone unnoticed by me that the debate over whether or not something is a penalty is far less common when the likes of either Harry Kane or Jamie Vardy hit the deck. When it’s Mohamed Salah, however, the press make a field day of it all. Could it, I wonder, have anything to do with the fact that his first name is Mohamed rather than Jamie or Harry? Certainly it’s easy to imagine that the darker skin of the Liverpool striker comes into the minds of some people when they discuss the way he behaves on a football pitch. It is, in my opinion, deeply disconcerting and seems to have reached a new height.
— Ste Rannard (@SteRannard) April 21, 2019
Whether it’s because he’s Muslim. Non-white, non-English, plays for Liverpool or simply a convergence of all those things is unclear, but one thing that is for certain is that Mohamed Salah is not treated the same way by the press as other players. Sean Morrison manhandled the Egyptian to the point where he had his arm around his throat, yet Gary Neville spent his time on commentary suggesting that the referee had ‘bought’ into Salah going down and that Cardiff could ‘feel aggrieved’ about the penalty being awarded. Neil Warnock joined in post-match, suggesting that it was a ‘9.9 Tom Daley dive’ from the forward, whilst no one seemed to ask why Morrison had decided to engage in moves that would’ve been illegal in wrestling on the number eleven. You’d expect such nonsense from Talksport of the Daily Mail, but even the likes of the BBC and Henry Winter have joined the suggestions that it was somehow down to Salah’s behaviour and that the referee had been ‘conned’.
Language Is Important When Discussing Decisions – A ‘Dive’ Means No Contact
I think a big part of the problem comes in the form of the language that is used by the press and pundits when discussing penalty decisions. The meaning of ‘dive’ has shifted in recent times to the point that any movement from a player other than literally what the person speaking deems to be acceptable gets called a dive. That’s not, in my opinion, what a dive is. A dive is when a player receives no contact from the opposing player but throws themselves to the ground in order to con the officials into the awarding of a spot-kick that would likely be overruled by VAR. That is an entirely different thing from exaggerating contact when contact is made and it should be treated as such. I will argue with nobody that Salah exaggerated the contact at the end of the movement yesterday, but if a referee won’t give a penalty when the defender has his arm around the attacker’s throat, what’s he supposed to do?
“I think the end of it was a 9.9 Tom Daley job. I don’t think he could have got much higher off the diving board at the end of it.”
Cardiff City boss Neil Warnock has likened Mohamed Salah to Olympic diver Tom Daley.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) April 21, 2019
Until and unless referees give penalties without players having to go to ground then players will have to go to ground in order to win the spot-kick. You know it, I know and defenders know it. There should be no conversation whatsoever today about Mo Salah’s movement and the only chat anyone’s having should be about Sean Morrison’s ridiculous decision to throttle him in the penalty area. More column inches and snide comments have been dedicated to Salah being virtually body-slammed than when either Kane or Vardy actually dive and throw themselves to the ground despite there being no contact. It’s very difficult to get over the notion that that isn’t to do with their inherent Englishness. I think the entire thing is a very deliberate ploy from certain sections of the media to stop Liverpool and Salah from getting as many penalties as we should and the only particularly good news is that next season the Video Assistant Referee should remove narrative from the conversation. It can’t come soon enough.