Liverpool 1-0 win marred by Mancini row over ref's leniency
Mancini furious at inconsistency after Glen Johnson is let off lightly for two-footed tackle on Lescott
Manchester City 0 Liverpool 1. A penalty from Steven Gerrard gave Liverpool a strong advantage after the first leg of their Carling Cup semi-final with Manchester City but the tie was overshadowed by an incident two minutes from time.
Liverpool full-back Glen Johnson’s two-footed tackle on City defender Joleon Lescott was at best robust and at worst reckless. Referee Lee Mason decided the challenge fell into the former and waved play on, a decision that later drew a furious response from City boss Roberto Mancini.
On Sunday Mancini had seen his captain, Vincent Kompany, given a straight red card for a similar tackle against Manchester United, and the Italian was aggrieved at the inconsistency.
"That was a worse tackle than Vincent's against Manchester United," fumed Mancini, who had allegedly been involved in a war of words with Gerrard in the tunnel after the game. The Liverpool captain was said to have taken offence at the City manager's touchline reaction to the tackle.
Asked later about the incident, Gerrard replied: "I'm surprised at Mancini. He had a go at Wayne Rooney trying to get one of his players sent off at the weekend, and now he is trying to get one of our players in trouble. I don't think that’s right." Gerrard added that "Glen was a clear winner of the tackle," though the Liverpool player overlooked the fact that Kompany had also won the ball in his challange.
It's this inconsistency that infuriated Mancini and he won't be the only person waking up today wondering how it is that Kompany received a straight red while Johnson got off scot-free. It's an issue the Football Association must address and, as The Daily Telegraph says, "the sooner referees issue a short post-match statement clarifying any talking points the better".
Mancini dismissed Gerrard's criticism, saying: "Gerrard can say what he wants. It's not important. I said what I think."
The contretemps will ensure that the return leg at Anfield on January 25 will be a hot-blooded affair as Liverpool look to book their place in their first domestic final since winning the 2006 FA Cup.
The visitors dominated the early proceedings at the Etihad Stadium with Andy Carroll missing a glorious chance after just five minutes and City keeper Joe Hart saving well from Daniel Agger's flick.
But Hart could do nothing to prevent Gerrard giving Liverpool the lead on 13 minutes after Stefan Savic felled Agger. It was a sweetly-struck penalty and hands Liverpool a priceless advantage ahead of what promises to be a spicy second leg.