Twenty eight minutes into Sunday’s match against Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool was second best in nearly every aspect of the game. Its opponents were growing in confidence and supporters were wondering when the Reds might begin to assert themselves.
Those hopes were dealt a near-fatal blow when midfielder Charlie Adam was shown his second yellow card of the game and was ejected. LFC was left a man down and carried little hope of taking control of the game.
Adam tried to use his foot to bring a down a ball that was cleared out of his own area by a teammate. It lingered a bit too high for too long and caught opposing midfielder Scott Parker’s shin as he rushed to hit a volley. Parker stayed down clutching his knee.
Adam, having been booked in the 12th minute, casually walked away thinking he would be whistled for a foul. He didn't intend to foul Parker and replays showed his eyes were on the ball the entire time it was in the air. This is incidental contact by definition.
Referee Mike Jones saw something else. He whistled for a foul. In the ensuing seconds, Tottenham’s Gareth Bale, Niko Kranjcar and Kyle Walker rushed towards Jones, pleading their case. The partisan crowd at White Hart Lane was screaming "off." It is impossible to prove to the effect the atmosphere had on Jones, but the referee reached into his pocket and pulled out a yellow card. It was Adam's second. The red card followed and his day was done.
Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp took a sympathetic view of the incident: "I don't know whether Charlie Adam had his eye on the ball or Scott, but I can't see him trying to do him." He told the Liverpool Echo. "He's not that kind of lad. He could have hurt Scott badly. He hung a leg out maybe and I would give him the benefit of the doubt."
Liverpool supporters may resent the fact that the home team and home crowd played a role in the dismissal of one of their players. LFC manager Kenny Dalglish would not be drawn into commenting on the issue, given that he escaped punishment for his comments about the officiating after the previous week's loss at Stoke City.
In his post-game press conference, he said, "One thing that you didn't see was a mass of Liverpool players running around the referee to dispute a decision. That doesn't necessarily mean that they agree with the decision. It's just that they have respect for the referee. If you have respect for the referee I don't see why there is [the suggestion of] a disciplinary problem."
Equally debatable was Adam’s first booking. It was the result of a combative moment in the 12th minute. As he battled an opposing player for possession in the midfield, Parker clipped him from behind. He even appeared to take a swipe at Adam with his arm. The ball bounced loose and fell to Luka Modric, who was standing nearby. Modric took possession, and Adam dragged him down.
On another day, with a different referee, Adam could have been called for a foul and spoken too. Jones booked him, much to the Scottish grafter’s disgust.
Adam's dismissal — a key moment in the contest — left Liverpool short of manpower in midfield (lumbering striker Andy Carroll shifted to the right side) against a Tottenham unit that may have been too much for them to handle at full strength. The Reds never recovered from that point and it was always a matter of time before Spurs would score again and remove any doubt about the result.
Photo courtesy of LiverpoolFC.tv