Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bassong Hits the Winner for Spurs; Rafa Critical of Match Officials

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bassong Hits the Winner for Spurs; Rafa Critical of Match Officials

Article excerpt

LIVERPOOL manager Rafael Benitez was left less than impressed by referee Phil Dowd and claimed fourth official Stuart Attwell was "too young" after watching his side lose their opening Barclays Premier League fixture at Tottenham.

The Reds, last season's runners-up, never really got going, and were fortunate to go in at the break only 1-0 down following a stunning 25-yard strike from Spurs' full-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

Captain Steven Gerrard equalised after 54 minutes from the penalty spot, after pounds 17m summer signing Glen Johnson had been up-ended by Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.

However, the lead did not last long as Sebastien Bassong, on his debut following an pounds 8m switch from Newcastle, headed in what prove to be the winner.

Luka Modric, from the right, floated the ball through a crowded penalty area, where the former Magpies defender got up to head into the corner and mark his debut in style.

Benitez, though, was more than a touch irritated when referee Dowd did not point to the spot after substitute Andriy Voronin appeared to be blocked by Assou-Ekotto, and also when further appeals for a handball against the same defender during the closing stages were dismissed. Assistant manager Sammy Lee was eventually sent from the dugout for taking his protests too far. Lee was particularly vocal towards Attwell.

Benitez said: "Everybody could see there was a penalty against Voronin. It was so clear, it is unbelievable. With this referee, I knew this (another penalty) was impossible."

Asked for his overall assessment of Dowd, Benitez went to his pocket and pulled out his glasses.

The Liverpool manager added: "We had a meeting the other day, and they said we can not talk about the referee as a person or the decisions, but I think everybody today could see the situation."

Attwell became the youngest referee in the Premier League when he took charge of Blackburn's match against Hull in August 2008.

However, the 26-year-old was at the centre of last season's 'Phantom Goal' controversy involving Reading and Watford. Discussing Attwell, the Liverpool manager said: "The fourth official is a young referee, and maybe he needs to calm down a bit. I do not know how old he is, but the fourth official is too young." Benitez did accept Liverpool were just not up to their usual high standards yesterday as they failed to match the opening-game wins of probable title rivals Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

"We did not play well in the first half, but were much better in the second, when we pushed harder and had more options in the final third," he said.

"Clearly we have to improve if we want to win these types of games.

"We have to improve in the middle, keeping the ball. The understanding has to be better. But it is too early, and we have another game on Wednesday when clearly we have to improve in the possession. …

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