Mark Hughes believes Marko Arnautovic’s sending off against Southampton was wrong and borne out of outdated perceptions about Stoke.
The Welshman’s 400th match as a Premier League manager was thrown off kilter when referee Anthony Taylor handed out a straight red card after 23 minutes.
However, toothless Southampton somehow failed to capitalise on Arnautovic’s sending off as the hosts dug deep and rode their luck to eke out a 0-0 draw.
Hughes was proud of his players’ “outstanding effort” but irked by the decision to send off Arnautovic, which he pinned on an out-of-date stereotype about Stoke.
“I have to say, I was disappointed with the sending off anyway,” he said. “I think it’s a mistimed tackle, he has clearly caught him, he has made contact.
“I don’t think it was done with intent or violent attitudes to try and stop the play. It was just a mistimed tackle and should have been viewed like that.
“Unfortunately, for whatever reason – and I’ve said it to the guys downstairs – it seems to be this perception that officials come here and think ‘maybe an early yellow card settles down Stoke City, it is always a hard place to go, the crowd are up’ and whatever.
“Those yellow cards, I know for a fact that’s what they talk about. But, in my view, those days are long gone, to be perfectly honest. We play a different way of football, we have done for a long time.
“You can argue whether or not it is better or different or whatever, but I think the perception is still there that referees think they have to come here and calm Stoke City players down and unfortunately that’s cost us today.”
— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) December 14, 2016
Hughes, who does not plan to appeal the Arnautovic ban, was irked further by the fact Shane Long got away with an apparent elbow on Stoke defender Bruno Martins Indi in the first half.
“Yeah, yeah, well, that’s the point I’ve made,” he said when asked if the Southampton forward had got away with one.
“If you’re going to make a key decision like that, a game-changing decision, which clearly it was making us go down to 10 men, all the other key moments and decisions during the rest of the game he has to get right as well.
“All you ask is the officials get key decisions right and if you are missing decisions or are getting wrong things or wrong interpretations throughout the game, which he was, then you’re not going to be pleased with your own performance, I would suggest.
“And certainly you are not going to please 30-odd thousand people here, who were hoping to see a good game football.
“In the end they saw a great rear-guard action from ourselves, but from our point of view this was a game we felt we could have won.”
The Football Association may take retrospective action after an incident Southampton manager Claude Puel claimed not to have seen.
The Saints boss could not comment on Long, but was more forthcoming when it came to his side’s inability to score.
Southampton have netted just four goals in eight Premier League matches and will be without top scorer Charlie Austin for up to four months.
“It is important to find the good solution and to be efficient or clinical in front of goal,” he said.
“This is all the team, all the players like a defender can score also on the corner for example, or a free kick.
“It’s important to find a solution and to give more aggressive, good aggressive from the goal to find a solution and to score.
“I think we have opportunities, possibilities, but without the good lucidity at the end to finish the action.
“This also is important to keep the good confidence for this, for all the players, and we have to insist on this work for the next game and together to find the good opportunities and to find the good clinical.”