Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has a right to be hopping mad at referee Bjorn Kuipers.
Kuipers ended Liverpool’s Champions League dream on Tuesday with a surprise and unjustified red card for halftime substitute Lazar Markovic in the Reds draw with FC Basel of Switzerland.
Markovic, a promising 20-year-old winger from Croatia already had beaten his Swedish opponent Behrang Safari to the ball at the midfield stripe.
But foolishly, Markovic then extended his arm as if to push off his opponent but accidentally hit him in the face with the tips of his fingers.
As his Swedish opponent cleverly crumpled to the ground and held his face, Kuipers bought the dive hook, line and sinker and flashed the red card to a disbelieving Markovic.
While the cynical quickly tweeted and chirped that the sending off was justified – most others were stunned the game-changing decision by Kuipers.
Under-fire Liverpool manager Brendan Rogers reacted angrily to the ejection in his post-match comments.
“I thought it was an awful decision. I thought the referee was disappointing on the evening to say the least…Markovic came on and was bright, made a difference to the team, he was dynamic. He had just taken a touch away, he’s obviously got his arm up, but if that’s a sending-off you are going to have two or three sendings-off every single game. It was a really, really poor decision.” | Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers
Rogers’ seemed justified but he may face punishment from UEFA for criticizing Kuipers.
Markovic may have meant to illegally push Safari back with his hand, but there certainly was no evidence he intended to injure his opponent.
Certainly a card may have been justified – but a straight sending off appeared way out of line from the experienced FIFA match official.
Markovic captured headlines late last season and was also sent off for his role in a touch-line brawl while on the Benfica substitutes bench in a match against Juventus.
A stunning 81st-minute free-kick strike from Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard temporarily helped breath hope into the Scousers fight to stay alive but it wasn’t to be.
Despite fighting valiantly for an equalizer in the closing minutes, The Reds went on to tie the match 1-1, signalling their group-stage exit from Europe’s top club tournament and further adding to the misery of a season riddled with setback and disappointment.