Raheem Sterling won a penalty on Wednesday. Manchester City were already beating Shakhtar when he accidentally kicked the floor in the opposition area, which referee Viktor Kassai wrongly adjudged to have been a foul. City went on to win 6-0.
Sterling spoke after the game, saying he “went to chip the ball”, wasn’t sure what had happened, and “didn’t feel contact”. He apologised to the officials who, it should be reiterated, were the ones who made the actual mistake. He did so likely expecting a backlash the following morning.
Those who thought that The Sun would have been at the front of that queue, sharpening their pitchforks and demanding justice, can pat themselves on the back for the most predictable of all predictions ever. They pull out all the stops on Thursday morning.
They call this, an incorrectly awarded penalty, a ‘City sporting shame’ in the same week as the widespread FFP allegations levelled against the club.
They say City and Sterling ‘were slated for showing “zero sportsmanship” over a farcical penalty ‘cheat’ storm”, leading this match report not on their own opinion, nor on quotes from a manager, a player or an expert pundit, but on completely unbiased tweets from rival ‘football supporters’.
They quite hilariously cross out the ‘6’ in the scoreline and replace it with a ‘5’. This is gloriously childish stuff.
They tell us that ‘not one City player tried to overturn the decision’, and that ‘good sportsman’ Robbie Fowler’ famously begged the referee not to award him a penalty against Arsenal in 1997 after he fell over in the box’.
Fun fact No.1: Robbie Fowler dived. He did not just ‘fall over’, he actively dived. Raheem Sterling did not. Perhaps that’s why Fowler owned up: it’s easier to do so when you know you’ve got something to own up to.
Fun fact No.2: That penalty was still given. And the rebound was scored after David Seaman saved it. It’s almost as if referees won’t change their mind just because a player has asked them to.
The best part of it all? The author of the article is Carl Long. Carl Long does not actually exist. The Sun are clearly not quite brave enough to stick an actual person’s name to it.
Dave Kidd lays it on even thicker in his Sun match report. He says Sterling ‘accentuated his fall’ before later adding that he ‘would surely have made it look more convincing had he been trying to cheat’. Well, which is it?
Kidd then cleverly says ‘there was an argument to suggest Sterling should have done a Robbie Fowler and come clean about it’, ensuring never to reveal his own opinion on what Sterling ‘should have done’, while pretty much revealing his own opinion on what Sterling ‘should have done’.
Again, Fowler dived. That is why he ‘came clean’. There was nothing for Sterling to ‘come clean about’ here.
But what about City? Apparently they ‘could even have either intentionally missed the penalty or run in a deliberate own goal in the interests of fairness after the interval’. Which a) literally no football team would ever do, and b) would probably have led to them being criticised for lacking hunger and killer instinct.
Every other newspaper refers to Pep Guardiola telling the fourth official it was not a penalty, despite it not being his responsibility to inform them. The Sun weirdly make no mention of that.
Mediawatch looks forward to every obvious refereeing mistake – Willy Boly’s handball goal for Wolves against City this season, for example – being treated the exact same: that the team who benefitted from the error immediately lets the opposition score from the resulting kick-off.
The headline to this piece is ‘STUPID SODS’. How very apt.
Class in session
The Sun‘s back page is not entirely dedicated to Sterling, rather surprisingly. They combine the story with a picture of Jose Mourinho cupping his ear towards Juventus fans. ‘NO CLASS’ is the single most ironic headline in the entire history of humanity.
The subheadline tells us that Jose Mourinho ‘tainted’ Manchester United’s ‘night of glory’. Yeah, you can’t move for fans denouncing this result because a manager reacted after being mocked for 90 minutes.
‘Jose Mourinho sparked a storm by goading Juventus fans after Manchester United’s brilliant late fightback,’ Neil Custis tells us. It apparently ‘overshadowed’ United’s comeback win, one that colleague Neil Ashton says ‘felt like 1999 in the Nou Camp all over again’.
It doesn’t seem like it overshadowed the result. Unless you are willfully playing silly beggars.
Still, at least they didn’t go full Daily Mirror. Their back page informs us of Mourinho’s ‘meltdown’.
He cupped his hand to his ear for a few seconds after being the subject of taunts from tens of thousands of people for 90 minutes. After a dramatic late comeback win. Away at Juventus.
‘Meltdown’? Grow up.
Writes David McDonnell in the first paragraph of his match report for the Daily Mirror:
‘Jose Mourinho could not help himself at the final whistle. And who could blame him?’
Whoever wrote the back-page subheadline to your article, apparently.
Sterling – and Mourinho, to an extent – are by far the biggest stories in football as of Thursday lunchtime. So how do websites like the Liverpool Echo cope when not able to view it from within their own bubble?
They produce a piece titled: ‘Raheem Sterling Man City penalty row – and the Liverpool example he SHOULD have followed’
‘The Liverpool example he SHOULD have followed’ included a player diving. So yeah.
Said Martin Keown on BT Sport:
“He’s almost like an assistant referee, isn’t he, Herrera? He’s either getting booked or getting somebody else booked!”
Mediawatch eagerly awaits the first assistant referee to book themselves.
“Where would you rank this if they can pull it off? Their best-ever result in Europe?”
Was this three-time European champions Manchester United’s best-ever result in Europe? It wasn’t in their top two in Turin.
Graeme: "He could've caused a riot."
Mick: "You've stuck the flag in the middle of the pitch in Turkey!"
— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) November 7, 2018
A Cutts above the rest
Writes Daniel Cutts in his latest exclusive for The Sun:
‘MANCHESTER UNITED are preparing a mega new contract offer for Anthony Martial worth a staggering £45million a year including bonuses.’
Hold on. Either Manchester United are offering Anthony Martial about £937,500 a week to stay, or you mean ‘a staggering £45million over five years’, not in a single year.
Congratulations to Sky Sports, who go for option A and use the rumour as the headline to their gossip column – ‘Utd to offer Martial £45m a year’ – without once stopping to think how ridiculous that would be.
Recommended reading of the day
Paul Doyle on Thierry Henry.
James Horncastle talks to Kevin-Prince Boateng.
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