Liverpool have reacted both swiftly and strongly to the bite incident involving Reds striker Luis Suarez in the 2-2 draw with Chelsea at Anfield today. The club have issued the following response:
Luis Suarez said: “I am deeply sorry for my inexcusable behaviour earlier today during our match against Chelsea.
“I have issued an apology and have tried to contact Branislav Ivanović to speak to him personally. I apologise also to my manager, playing colleagues and everyone at Liverpool Football Club for letting them down.”
The club’s managing director Ian Ayre commented: “Luis has made an unreserved apology for his actions today.
“His behaviour is not befitting of any player wearing a Liverpool shirt and Luis is aware that he has let himself and everyone associated with the club down. We will deal with the matter internally and await any action from the FA.”
Brendan Rodgers added: “Having reviewed the video footage and spoken to Luis, his behaviour is unacceptable and I have made him aware of this.”
Luis Suarez headed in a dramatic late equaliser to earn his side a draw in a pulsating encounter with Chelsea. However, the match was marred by an unsavoury incident in which Suarez appeared to bite Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, seemingly unnoticed by referee Kevin Friend.
The Uruguayan guided in a header from a Sturridge cross deep into stoppage time but it is his apparent bite on Ivanovic which will make the headlines, for all the wrong reasons.
Oscar’s header had earlier given Chelsea a half time lead, before substitute Daniel Sturridge equalised shortly after the break.
Eden Hazard’s penalty restored the Blues’ lead, only for Suarez to level in the 97th minute to secure his side a point.
The altercation between Suarez and Ivanovic overshadowed a match in which current Chelsea and former Liverpool manager Benitez was afforded a raucous reception on his return to Anfield, although the Spaniard was ultimately denied what would have been a priceless victory in his current side’s attempts to ensure they are playing Champions League football next term.
The draw saw Liverpool remain in sixth place, five points behind rivals Everton who have yet to come to Anfield to face their Merseyside neighbours, while Chelsea were left in fourth.
The home side forced the first opening in the game, Glen Johnson poking wide after Jordan Henderson and Luis Suarez combined to send the Reds full back through on goal. Ramires then tested Reds keeper Pepe Reina from range, but chances were few and far between; both sides were neat in possession but wasteful in the final third.
It was no surprise therefore that, when the opening goal arrived, it came from a set piece. Poor defending allowed Oscar to peel away from his marking before nodding Mata’s corner past Reina.
The goal handed Chelsea the momentum and they pushed forward in search of further goals, although Reina nearly gifted them a second goal, gathering the loose ball as it threatened to cross the goalline after he had fumbled David Luiz’ long range free kick.
The home side struggled to match the intenstity their opponents were exhibiting, with Suarez’ angled shot being the only notable response to Chelsea’s breakthrough, to which Blues keeper Petr Cech was equal.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, who was taking charge of the Reds for the 50th time, brought on Sturridge at the break, and the striker’s introduction almost paid immediate dividends; after dancing past several defenders he slipped a pass through to Steven Gerrard, whose goalbound shot was diverted behind by Cech’s outstretched boot.
Soon after, Sturridge worked himself ample space to crash a thunderous drive from range against the post, before the home side’s pressure produced an equaliser.
Stewart Downing hooked a pass towards Suarez, who executed an inch-perfect first time cross to the far post for Sturridge to convert against his former club.
However, the away side were quite literally handed a chance to restore their lead minutes later. Suarez, whilst grappling with former Liverpool striker Fernando Torres, handled from a corner, and Eden Hazard made no mistake from the spot, sending Reina the wrong way in the process of rolling the ball into the opposite corner.
Suarez fired a free kick wide as he attempted to make amends for his culpability for the penalty concession, before then appearing to bite Ivanovic’s upper arm as the duo tangled in the area, but escaping punishment.
Substitute Jonjo Shelvey dragged a shot wide wastefully after Sturridge’s deft flick allowed Jordan Henderson to present his England under 21 teammate with a glorious chance to level, before Henderson himself sidefooted wide.
However, as Chelsea teetered on the brink of three precious points, Suarez had the final word, heading home in the final minute of added time.
NOTE: My article on the Suarez bite, the consequences, and the wider issues surrounding the Uruguayan and his future at Liverpool: Coming soon.
Today sees the return of one Rafa Benítez to the Anfield dugout. Not as manager of the home side, but that of the visitors; the despised Chelsea ‘You Ain’t Got No History’ Football Club. The Spaniard committed what would have been considered base treachery in becoming the Blues’ manager in mid-November, if not for his legendary status among the majority of the Anfield faithful(although admittedly, this did not spare Fernando Torres from going from unanimously loved to widely loathed following his infamous £50million move).
Thanks to a historic Champions League victory featuring a comeback of epic proportions, an FA Cup triumph in similarly dramatic circumstances and countless magical European nights that will live long in the memory, Benítez has secured himself an eternal place in Kopites’ hearts.
Those Kopites will afford their returning hero a raucous reception. It doesn’t matter that the tie around his neck is blue, not when he is, emotionally, securely tied to the Reds. Always the professional, Benítez may raise a hand in acknowledgement, but his mind will be focussed on the job at hand – a vital match in his current side’s attempts to ensure Champions League football.
His intentions were clear from the moment the subject was breached following Chelsea’s 3-0 win at Fulham in midweek:
“I have a lot of friends and memories from my time at Liverpool but I’ll try to concentrate on the game,” he said.
“You need to use your common sense. I am committed to Chelsea and to achieving our targets.”
Meanwhile, the Reds’ current manager, Brendan Rodgers will stand in the background and wonder when, and how, he will be able to invoke such adulation from his club’s fervent support.
He is not yet afforded the reverence that Benítez receives. There may come a time in the future when Rodgers’ is considered in the same light as the Spaniard, but there is a lot of work to be done in the present.
The task set before him is unenviable; a rebuilding job akin to the one the legendary former Reds manager Bill Shankly successfully undertook. But the similarities between Rodgers and his illustrious, messianic predecessor should end there.
But this is Liverpool, whose fans desire more than just their manager to do well, but look for a character worthy of their emotional investment. The faithful want someone not just to put their faith in, but someone to worship.
And worship they have, generally. This is by no means a bad thing, or at least not for those who receive such enthusiastic glorification, like Benítez. He will receive the adoration of the Kop, despite his position in the opposing dugout, and there are those who deify him and still desperately cling onto their hopes of his return, further fuelled by the Spaniard’s recent comments describing such a comeback in the future as an “almost certainty.”
However, it is why Rodgers is by no means greeted in that way so often nor so enthusiastically; there has been precious little to worship in his first season, one of transition, at the club. It is not necessarily his fault, seeing as in comparison to Benítez, he had no Champions League to win and inherited a squad inferior to that Gérard Houllier left behind, nor is it truly significant; it merely serves to illustrate the status he must battle against.
Ironically, it is also the status he so desperately craves to achieve.
Rodgers is not bereft of confidence, but he soon discovered that not only was he meant to halt the decline and forge a successful future for the club, but manage the burdens of its past in addition. After taking the reins from the acclaimed king Kenny Dalglish, now stands Benitez.
He will stand at Anfield today, and will be cheered emphatically. Those cheers are not suggesting an imminent revolt against Rodgers, nor a lack of belief in his ‘project’ of leading Liverpool back to those glory days. The majority retain confidence in Rodgers, although several of his signings, such as Joe Allen and Fabio Borini have done little to inspire it, while results have only gradually improved, with inconsistency and profligacy continuing to be an occasional plague.
But the unfortunate truth is this match is hardly about Rodgers. He has very much been forgotten, an insignificant sub-plot to Benítez’ climactic return. Herein lies one of Rodgers’ major problems since taking over as Liverpool manager, ever since he first stepped into a Melwood complex steeped in burdening history. This is a young, inexperienced manager still finding his own identity, given the task of reaffirming the identity of a globally recognised institution on the decline.
Rodgers should not stand forgotten. It is he who has been given the responsibility of returning the Reds to their long vacated position at the summit of English and European football. Not Benítez. Nor anyone else. Rodgers is the one who has been chosen.
So, yes, allow Benítez the reception he deserves after his exploits as Liverpool manager. But do not forget that he is a figure of the past, no longer the man in charge at Anfield. Rodgers is that man, and so when the whistle blows at kick off today, the support of the Anfield faithful should be well and truly behind him.
We cannot allow Rodgers to be forced to walk alone.
The Uncensored Match Build Up: Sunday sees Rafa Benitez returns to Merseyside as his “interim” side Chelsea take on Liverpool. Ahead of the game the lads discuss…
– Are we just playing for pride?
– Agent Rafa- do you want him to win something at Chelsea?
– TRIVIA QUESTION
– Dangerman Focus: Juan Mata
– Lineup Thoughts?
– Should Sturridge Keep His Place?
– Score Predictions
– TRVIVA ANSWER