It could have been a very costly mistake and Rob McNichol wonders whether one his favourite referees gave Wigan a free-kick partly because of Arsenal fans' jibes...
You may think David Luiz's chuckles were unpleasant, but Rob McNichol wonders what else could be done when the officials took exactly the right action...
Most of us love the festive period. Big games, local derbies and football aplenty to a) augment the Christmas celebrations or b) give a good excuse to avoid the family.
But it appears that Marouane Fellaini doesn't share our sentiments towards the Christmas schedule. He seemed extremely keen to get Christmas (and maybe New Year) off by going on a rampage at Stoke on Saturday.
In the end Fellaini was cited for three incidents of alleged violent conduct - all on Ryan Shawcross - yet was not sent off. I have a limited amount of sympathy for Mark Halsey, the referee in this game, but admittedly not that much.
The first, and most shocking, of Fellaini's crimes was a straightforward headbutt on Shawcross which flattened the Potters defender. It was violent, brutal, appalling and one of the worst assaults I've seen in our game in many a year.
Halsey didn't send off the Belgian because he didn't see it. I'm not sure his positioning from the corner in which it occurred was as good as it could have been, as he had allowed his vision of Fellaini and Shawcross to become impaired and obstructed. That said, while you strive to be in the right place at the right time as a referee, sometimes it doesn't happen, and sometimes you will miss things. It's a bit like Lionel Messi missing a penalty; it doesn't stop him being good at what he does, and there is no excuse for missing the target - it just happens.
Far worse, in my eyes, was Mr Halsey's failure to send off Fellaini for what essentially was a palm thrust to the face of Shawcross. I'm not saying the violent conduct was worse (although it was pretty bad) but the issue for me is that Mr Halsey apparently saw it, because he awarded Stoke a free-kick. I can't quite understand why that was where the punishment on the field ended but I assume that's why Fellaini's retrospective sentence was so light.
People have compared Fellaini's suspension to Joey Barton's, and there does seem to be a bit of a discrepancy. In some ways, you could consider Fellaini's actions to be worse, as it was three separate, seemingly pre-conceived attacks. Barton lost his mind for a few seconds and set about various players. That's not defending Barton - and as I recall I got the length of his ban correct, even if my workings were a bit off - but it is offering a perspective.
The biggest difference? Barton didn't show all that much remorse. In fact, he suggested that in continuing spats after his red card he was trying to get opponents involved so that they would be sent off as well. Fellaini, hollow though it may have been, offered an unreserved apology. David Moyes deserves credit, too, for simply refusing to defend Fellaini. Plenty of managers 'wouldn't have seen it' or would have complained about provocation.
A football manager said this at the weekend: "I'm not sure what we have to do to get a penalty."
Here's an idea, Mr Rodgers (for it was he) - one of your players has to be fouled in the penalty area, or an opposing player needs to handball it within that same space. Whether your claim that you should have had other penalties throughout the season is accurate or not is moot. On this occasion - on Saturday v Aston Villa - from the evidence I have seen, Liverpool did not deserve a penalty kick.
The first incident in question, and the one which Liverpool seemed to feel gave them the strongest case, was for an alleged shirt pull on Daniel Agger by Ciaran Clark. Actually, scratch that, forget what I said. There is nothing alleged about it. There WAS a shirt pull by Clark on Agger. It is as plain as the nose on your face or the tats on Agger's arms.
But so is the pull by Agger on Clark. I have slowed down and paused the action to show that they had hold of each other's shirts at the same time. I guess those of a Liverpool persuasion might tell me that Clark was holding a shirt first, and I can't refute that, but I saw no evidence to support it either.
Then there was a trip on Raheem Sterling as he burst towards goal. Fair enough, it was definitely a foul, but it was outside the penalty area, and referee Neil Swarbrick correctly gave a free-kick just outside the area, where the contact first took place.
Lastly, Luis Suarez was cautioned for remonstrating with Mr Swarbrick after Liverpool demanded a handball against Clark when blocking a goalbound shot by Joe Allen. Had the ball struck a hand there might have been an interesting discussion about how intentional it was and the positioning of the arm. As it was, the replay showed the ball hitting the chest, not the arm, so it matters not.
I was rather surprised by Mike Dean, who I consider to be amongst our top officials, not stopping the game when Michu was injured during Swansea's visit to Tottenham. I have heard a couple of people say 'it's a good job Spurs didn't score' from their break. That's largely irrelevant. The real point is should be 'it's a good job Michu was ok'.
As a refereeing team you need to be stopping the game immediately for serious injuries of any kind, particularly head injuries. This wasn't innocuous; it was a very visible collision between Michu and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. Not a foul, but an incident everyone saw. Fortunately, Michu was just fine, but I don't think Mr Dean should have taken that risk.
Rob McNichol (he's on Twitter, you know)
Rob knows most of you aren't wrestling fans - but for those that are, he'd like to tell you about his new digital magazine Hooked on Wrestling, available to purchase online from HookedonWrestling.com (http://bit.ly/HOWIssueOne) for only 99p. Ta.