London – Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes that Luis Suarez's reputation is being unfairly held against him after the striker was denied a penalty during his side's FA Cup defeat at Arsenal.
Having earlier won a penalty that Steven Gerrard converted to bring Liverpool back into Sunday's game after Arsenal had gone 2-0 up, Suarez was clearly fouled by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
However, referee Howard Webb elected not to award a penalty, despite having had a clear view of the incident, and Arsenal held out for a 2-1 victory that set up a quarter-final tie at home to Everton.
Suarez has often been criticised for going to ground too easily during his time in England, but Rodgers believes that the Uruguayan's reputation should not have influenced Webb's decision.
Citing an incident earlier in the season when Suarez had a penalty appeal turned down during a game at Chelsea, Rodgers said:
“He's always asking questions of defenders, and quite a lot of the time he doesn't get what he deserves.
“The one at Chelsea was a clear penalty. He's got a penalty but should've deservedly had two penalties today (Sunday). And if it is a penalty he should have it, irrespective of what his reputation is.
“I thought that was quite an easy decision for the ref. Luis has a touch, gets around him, and it looks a blatant penalty.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who made an unsuccessful attempt to sign Suarez last year, feels that the former Ajax player's reputation for diving is rooted in fact, however.
“I rate Suarez as a player,” said Wenger. “If we had him in the team we'd have a few more free-kicks.
“But it's always difficult to know with him: was it really genuine contact? It was contact, I don't deny that, but he's very good to make more of it every time.”
Webb created further controversy by declining to show Liverpool captain Gerrard a second yellow card for a second-half foul on Oxlade-Chamberlain, but Rodgers supported the official over his handling of the incident.
“I think it was a foul. I'm not so sure it was a yellow card,” he said. “Howard's used his common sense. He got that correct.”
Arsenal's victory avenged their crushing 5-1 defeat at Liverpool in the Premier League last weekend and also vindicated Wenger's decision to make seven changes to his starting XI.
Wojciech Szczesny, Bacary Sagna, Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky and Olivier Giroud were all left out, as Wenger kept one eye on Wednesday's Champions League last 16
first leg against Bayern Munich.
Wenger praised goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and 21-year-old French striker Yaya Sanogo, who marked his first start for the club by playing an important role in Oxlade-Chamberlain's 16th-minute opener.
“For a first performance, he was excellent,” Wenger said.
“He was always in the game, was a handful for them. Considering the intensity of the game, it was absolutely excellent.”
Wenger also hit back at Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who branded the Frenchman a “specialist in failure” during a media conference on Friday.
Mourinho was responding to a remark from Wenger that managers who have ruled their teams out of the title race – as Mourinho has on several occasions – must be afraid of falling short.
However, Wenger said that his comment was not a direct reference to Mourinho and described the Chelsea manager's reaction as “silly” and “disrespectful” in a television interview.
During a subsequent press conference, he added: “I'm embarrassed for him, honestly. I'm more disappointed for Chelsea than for me.
“I'm not interested in the subject at all. That is really genuine. If you are interested and you have nothing better to do in your life, you are free to do it.
“Honestly I cannot force my interest in things that are not interesting for me. I love football, and I'm sorry to disappoint you (the media), but what's interesting for me is what happens on the pitch.” – Sapa-AFP