RATIONAL REF WILLIAM LAI
The Rational Ref
by

From Manchester United to Joey Barton, it's all about luck, pain and complaints

Some players have it all their way, but others just spend their time pointing fingers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 May, 2015, 9:07pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 May, 2015, 12:46pm

Some teams have all the luck, some teams have all the pain, some get all the breaks, while others do nothing but complain. The song lyrics - slightly amended - perfectly captures what happens every weekend on soccer pitches all over the world.

Take the EPL last weekend, where Sunderland's two goals against Everton were the result of lucky deflections. Burnley and QPR both suffered the pain of relegation. Chelsea got all the breaks against Liverpool after Cesc Fabregas escaped a red card in the first minute. And Crystal Palace did nothing but complain when a penalty was awarded to Manchester United.

A little luck plays a huge part in the fate of teams, leaving them with pain or ecstasy. Louis van Gaal summed it up with: "Football is crazy. When you see how we played against Chelsea, Everton and WBA [where United played well but lost all three] and compare it today, in that row of matches it was not our best match - but we won. That's also the beauty of football."

When you see how we played against Chelsea, Everton and WBA and compare it today, in that row of matches it was not our best match - but we won. That's also the beauty of football
Louis van Gaal, Manchester United boss

Apart from unpredictable outcomes and lucky deflections, there are also deliberate diversions. Referees regularly encounter these when players attempt to hoodwink them by doing what all successful pickpockets do: misdirect. Whenever a referee makes a decision, you can be sure that another player will be right up next to him asking questions and arguing about some other incident. It's a psychological ploy that attempts to derail the referee's train of thought.

Often players foil referees this way so that their teammates are let off the hook from the proper sanction that they deserve.

Goalkeepers who foul an attacking player and therefore concede a penalty are always defended by teammates who hound referees. This occurs so many times that referees are often hoodwinked into forgetting the card.

Bizarrely, referee Andre Marriner last weekend appeared to hoodwink himself after "seeing" Fabregas' awful challenge on Liverpool's Raheem Sterling. Apparently Marriner saw the foul, played advantage and then went back to sanction the Chelsea player.

However, Marriner incorrectly identified Chelsea's John Obi Mikel as the culprit and pulled out a red card. Realising it was the wrong card, Marriner then showed the yellow card to Mikel.

Finally, Marriner accepted he had the wrong Chelsea player, apologised to Mikel - who nevertheless continued his protestations - and then showed Fabregas the yellow.

The whole sequence of events was surreal, especially coming from a professional referee. Marriner was the referee who last season wrongly sent off Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs for deliberate handball when it was his Gunners teammate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who pushed a shot around a post with his hand.

Why did Marriner mistake Fabregas for Mikel? How did he conclude that the tackle - studs on ankle - did not endanger Sterling? What made him mix up his cards? The fact that this happened in the first minute suggests Marriner was not focused from the beginning.

More hoodwinking came from QPR captain Joey Barton when he criticised some nameless "bad eggs" in his team to deflect from himself. "There's a few people who need to have a good look at themselves," said Barton.

"Whatever happens on Sunday [against Manchester City] and the next two games, you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and say I did everything I can.

More hoodwinking came from QPR captain Joey Barton when he criticised some nameless 'bad eggs' in his team to deflect from himself

"Some people haven't done that. One or two bad eggs have spoiled it. If it had been done my way, they would have been out of the building straight away."

This misdirection is one of the biggest ironies in soccer considering exactly three years ago Barton was the "bad egg" who was sent off at the Etihad Stadium in the final game of the season with QPR also relegated.

Barton had lost the plot by elbowing Carlos Tevez.

In the aftermath, Barton attempted to headbutt and kick Sergio Aguero before being dragged off the pitch. He later received a 12-match ban after being stripped of the captaincy and told he would not play for QPR again.

This season, despite returning to QPR, Barton received his ninth red card of his career.

A "bad egg" calling others "bad eggs" is perhaps the ultimate deflection.

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