Gareth Bale says he is not a diver despite being booked for simulation for the third time in the past five games.
The Tottenham Hotspur winger went down under a challenge by Craig Gardner in the Sunderland penalty area and his yellow card, his fifth for diving since the start of last season, overshadowed his side's 2-1 victory at the Stadium of Light.
The Wales international, who will miss the league game against Reading through suspension as a result of his booking, said: "Three times I've been clipped and booked for no reason."
He rejected suggestions the theatrical way he goes down gets him into trouble.
"Referees have to look closer," he said. "What am I supposed to? Fall over and bang my head? I have to use my hands to protect myself."
This did not appear the most obvious piece of simulation as Gardner tugged at his arm slightly and there was minimal contact around his knee as Bale burst into the box, but as the winger tumbled there seemed a momentary pause before he went down and the referee Martin Atkinson deemed it a dive.
"It's a difficult decision for the referee but a big mistake," Andre Villas-Boas, the Tottenham manager, said.
"There's obviously been a lot of writing about the yellow cards he's been getting - a couple of them have been good decisions but a couple haven't and this one wasn't.
"The guy [Gardner] doesn't look at the ball, he looks at the player. Obviously he [Bale] is very frustrated. We opened ourselves to referees. They came to our training ground. Gareth accepted it's difficult for them to make decisions and he said he'd change his style.
"It comes from his pace, ability, speed and the amount of times people try to stop him.
"Sometimes they do it in proper way, sometimes they have to foul. It looks like persecution at this time."
Less explicable was why Atkinson did not book Jermain Defoe for what looked a clear dive shortly before half time and Villas-Boas acknowledged the England striker had been fortunate to get away with his simulation.
"Players have a responsibility," he said. "We want to take it out of the game."
The match itself was a far more comprehensive win for Spurs than the score line suggests.
It was an emphatic and impressive performance against a team that had won three of their previous four games and that looked far from relegation candidates in beating Manchester City on Boxing Day on Wednesday.
It lifted them to third in the Premier League, at least temporarily, and with players returning from injury the prognosis for Uefa Champions League qualification is looking good.
When Sunderland took the lead five minutes before half time, it could hardly have been more against the run of play.
They had barely been out of their half in the previous quarter hour, pinned back by the tenacity of Tottenham's pressing.
Sunderland, digging in on the edge of their own penalty area, had largely restricted them, although Emmanuel Adebayor had hit the crossbar from six yards with the goal gaping.
But a break led by James McClean led to Stephane Sessegnon being fouled. Sebastian Larsson whipped in the free kick and when Hugo Lloris saved from Steven Fletcher, John O'Shea lashed in his first league goal since September 2009.
But six minutes into the second half, Tottenham had the lead.
First Carlos Cuellar headed a Kyle Walker corner into his own net and then Aaron Lennon, gathering a ricochet off Matt Kilgallon, knocked the ball one side of O'Shea, ran around the other and stabbed it past Simon Mignolet.
Sunderland may feel the goals were a little soft, but there could be no doubting Spurs' superiority over the game as a whole. "We played with a lot of commitment and heart," said the Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill. "But they're a very fine side."
There was further bad news for Sunderland as Villas-Boas ruled out the possibility of making the full-back Danny Rose's loan move permanent. "It's impossible," he said. "We have very high expectations for this player. There's a high possibility his loan spell will continue."
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