Sunderland manager Steve Bruce tempered his criticism of referee Stuart Attwell after he awarded a “crazy” goal to Liverpool in the 2-2 draw at Anfield.
The Black Cats boss said he did not want to incur the wrath of the Football Association by giving his true thoughts but was deeply unhappy with the performance of the 27-year-old official.
Attwell, who awarded the infamous “ghost goal” in the Watford v Reading Championship match two years ago, allowed Dirk Kuyt’s opening strike to count after ruling Michael Turner had taken a free-kick when he appeared to roll it back to goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and Fernando Torres nipped in.
Darren Bent hit back with a penalty and a header either side of half-time before Gerrard nodded in Torres’ near-post cross to salvage a point but the official’s performance was a major talking point.
“I’ve been in enough trouble so I don’t want to talk about it but you all witnessed it and he got it wrong,” said Bruce.
“The free-kick was 25 yards from where the incident was and I think everyone in the ground realised that too.
“He has put his whistle to his mouth three times and if he is in doubt he should have given the free-kick to be taken in the right position.
“This is the second time it has happened to me, the first time was at Arsenal in the FA Cup [as Sheffield United manager in 1999] when they were going to throw it back to our goalkeeper and they threw it to Kanu who ran down the wing and crossed for Marc Overmars to score.
“Maybe in the past a Liverpool team would have come back and said it was unfair and unsportsmanlike – I doubt it though.
“We are going to talk about this crazy goal and not the performance of the team, which was terrific.”
Bruce, referring to Bent’s freak strike which defeated Liverpool at the Stadium of Light last season, added: “It is a shame because we should be talking about a Sunderland win but it is going to be like it was with the beachball 12 months ago.”
The Sunderland manager also accused Attwell of showing favouritism to Gerrard, who caught Danny Welbeck in the face with an arm and was booked.
“I know if it had been Lee Cattermole he would have been sent off,” he said.
“He gives a yellow card – it is a strange one.”
Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson felt his side deserved their point despite failing to capitalise on their early goal, having seen Torres have one ruled out for offside moments earlier.
He also felt the penalty Attwell awarded when the ball struck Christian Poulsen was “compensatory” in the wake of the furore his decision for Liverpool’s first caused.
“It wasn’t the result we wanted but in many ways it was the performance we wanted,” he said.
“We had a very bright start and we could have been 2-0 up because I think Torres’ first goal which was disallowed for offside was incorrectly ruled out but we lost our way.
“But I thought the penalty they got was fairly compensatory because I don’t prescribe to accidental handball, for me handball has to be intentional.
“We suffered the cold shower of going 2-1 down in the second half and after that I thought the reaction was really good.
“We dominated the game after that and created lots of chances but only scored from one of them.
“I think over the 90 minutes we were more than worth the point we got.
“Sunderland got back into the game and it certainly evened things out.”
Hodgson admitted it had been another missed opportunity to get Liverpool’s season back on track, with their first six matches now having brought one win, three draws and two defeats.
But he accepted they were playing well below what was required to be considered Champions League qualification form.
“Had we won today we could have found ourselves in fourth or fifth place, although I don’t think we are playing like a team in fourth or fifth place,” he said.
“We have to start winning all games because the league is very tight.
“These days it is not a question of three or four teams dominating the league, it is getting harder and harder.
“Of course we are playing at home, we were 1-0 up and hopefully we would go on to build on that but unfortunately there was an opponent as well and they had something to say on the matter.”