It's all the ref's fault

Crystal Palace were furious after seeing Mike Marsh rescue Liverpool with a 76th minute penalty to keep alive their Coca-Cola Cup hopes.
Palace not only disputed the penalty award, given for rookie George Ndah's challenge on Rob Jones but felt Marsh was lucky to still be on the pitch.

For three minutes before his equaliser Marsh had brought down Ndah as he broke from the halfway line with only goalkeeper Mike Hooper to beat.

Marsh's desperate tackle from behind was definitely a "professional foul" but Kettering referee Brian Hill only brandished a yellow card.

And that proved a telling decision as Marsh stepped up to send Palace goalkeeper Nigel Martyn the wrong way to earn Liverpool a fortunate replay.

Palace, thumped 5-0 at Anfield in the Premier League, were the better side and enjoyed the better chances despite fielding a makeshift team.

They had 17-year-old Ndah and 21-year-old Rob Bowry both making their debuts, joining Gareth Southgate and Simon Osborn in a midfield with a collective weekly wage of just 790 pounds. But against the multimillion allstars of Liverpool they were far from overawed and the fact that Marsh's equaliser was the home side's first shot on target shows the measure of Palace's performance.

Liverpool lost David Burrows, carried off on a stretcher after just nine minutes with a detached ligament in his knee which could rule him out for up to three months.

But his replacement was England defender Mark Wright, so the home side can hardly claim that his departure was a key factor in their dismal display. Richard Shaw brought a fine save from Hooper as early as the 10th minute, Bowry struck a post on the half-hour after rounding Hooper and then Ndah wasted an equally good opportunity three minutes later when clean through.
His first touch let him down and allowed Hooper to race forward and smother the danger.

But Palace did take the lead 11 minutes after the break with a finely taken goal from defender-turned striker Chris Coleman. Coleman, signed from his native Swansea as a defender for 275,000 pounds in August last year, has been more often used as an emergency striker, and he showed why with a superb header to convert Southgate's cross.

That sparked a desperate Liverpool onslaught but Palace regularly pulled all 11 men behind the ball to frustrate the home side and the bulk of the 18,525 crowd. But Liverpool's attacks still failed to pose any real threat and it looked increasingly as if it would need something special or out of the ordinary to give them a way back.

That came with Hill's controversial decision and Liverpool have a second chance to reach the quarter-finals with a trip to Selhurst Park.

But a furious Graeme Souness blasted Palace and Hill. Souness was incensed by what he felt was Palace's physical approach and with the Kettering official for not dealing with it.

Souness raged: "If that's what football is about, then I'll have to look for another job. We expected a physical game and we certainly got one. I have to be careful with what I say about the referee, but I was deeply disappointed that he allowed certain things to go on that I have never seen since I have been back in England. I have David Burrows in plaster with a detached knee ligament that may require an operation. It could be cartilage trouble too and he'll be out for at least three months."

Palace manager Steve Coppell responded to Souness' outburst saying: "Maybe they'd prefer it if we came here and lost 5-0 every week. We competed. We were hard but I don't think we were dirty."

And he held back from criticising referee Hill himself. Coppell simply said: "I never criticise referees in public. The referee made a decision in the heat of the moment and obviously felt our lad had a long way to go."

Copyright - British Soccer Week

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