x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Shame of Liverpool's Luis Suarez steals the spotlight against Chelsea

Questionable biting incident that was not seen by the referee overshadows Luis Suarez' equaliser in the 97th minute as Liverpool and Chelsea finish in a 2-2 draw, writes Richard Jolly.

After plenty of controversy, Liverpool's Luis Suarez scored his league-leading 23rd goal of the season in the 97th minute to earn Liverpool a 2-2 draw with Chelsea. Peter Powell / EPA
After plenty of controversy, Liverpool's Luis Suarez scored his league-leading 23rd goal of the season in the 97th minute to earn Liverpool a 2-2 draw with Chelsea. Peter Powell / EPA
Liverpool 2 Chelsea 2

Liverpool Sturridge 52', Suarez 90'+7

Chelsea Oscar 26', Hazard 57'

LIVERPOOL // Rafa Benitez had endeavoured to ensure it was not all about him.

Much as he tried, he was failing comprehensively until an unlikely ally intervened.

Luis Suarez has a capacity to overshadow all around him that is invariably remarkable. Sometimes, however, it is simply reprehensible.

By scoring a 97th-minute equaliser, he irritated Benitez.

By biting Branislav Ivanovic on the arm in the 66th minute, he almost certainly ended his season and possibly his Liverpool career. He behaved, once again, truly terribly.

He escaped without sanction at the time, with referee Kevin Friend seeming not to see the incident.

It already appears certain that the FA will take action, however, and Liverpool may as well.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insisted he had neither witnessed the episode nor watched the television replays.

Nevertheless, he hinted that Liverpool, who have long been adamant they will not sell their prize asset, may change their mind now.

"This is a club with incredible values and ethics," Rodgers said. "It's not for me to make any rash comments or any predictions now, but this is a football club where historically, players treat people with respect.

"There is certainly no one bigger than this football club, as a player or a manager."

It hardly helps Suarez's case that he was given an eight-match suspension for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra last season or that his Ajax career ended with an seven-match ban for biting PSV Eindhoven midfielder Otman Bakkal in 2010.

Other controversies, including diving and taking a deliberate handball, pale into insignificance in comparison, but they do mean Suarez has plenty of previous red flags.

Rodgers added: "I will always defend people if I think they are right, and if I think they are wrong, I will tell them, as I have already done this season with Luis.

"It's disappointing that we are not talking about the football."

Much of the football, too, revolved around Suarez, particularly in an extraordinary second half. He fashioned Daniel Sturridge's equaliser, the substitute scoring seven minutes after his arrival by converting the Uruguayan's looping cross.

Then, with a needless handball that provided further evidence of Suarez's self-destructive streak, he allowed Chelsea to reclaim the lead. Eden Hazard slotted in the resulting penalty.

Finally, deep into stoppage time and after Benitez felt the final whistle should have been blown, Sturridge crossed and Suarez headed the ball into the net.

In doing so, he joined the select group of players to score 30 goals in a season for Liverpool.

It may also be his last for the club. Needless to say, with the crowd unaware of the controversy, the game ended with Anfield bouncing to the sound of a song about Suarez. The crowd then paid their respects to the returning hero, Benitez, a former Liverpool coach.

During the first half, the Kop had chorused his name, just as they had during his six-year reign, occasionally remembering to acknowledge their current manager, Brendan Rodgers, as well.

The Kop unveiled a banner with his image alongside those of Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool's five managerial greats.

His return began superbly, with Chelsea exerting control in the first half and going ahead when Oscar headed in Juan Mata's corner.

At that stage, they were on course to reclaim third place and achieve Benitez's objective of a top-four finish and Champions League football.

While Suarez, as ever, had other ideas, it was also a match of other reunions. Sturridge, formerly of Chelsea, made a huge impact.

Torres, who left Liverpool for £50 million, angered Rodgers with an elbow on Jamie Carragher that he thought merited a red card. Suarez's bite, of course, should incur a rather heavier penalty.

Man of the match Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)


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