The referees may have cost Chelsea the game in a 3-2 loss to Manchester United, depending on who you ask. Certainly, a sluggish start against the Red Devils didn't help. But on one of the most controversial decisions of the day, Fernando Torres has nobody to blame but himself.
I'm talking, of course, about the second yellow card Torres received for simulation that ended with him getting sent off—leaving Chelsea playing two men down (Torres was sent off just minutes after Branislav Ivanovic suffered the same fate).
You can judge for yourself whether or not Torres deserved to be called for simulation. Jonny Evans certainly appears to have made contact.
But there are three reasons I believe Torres was accused of taking the dive, and two of them are his own fault:
- Referee Mark Clattenburg didn't see the contact. If he had, he couldn't have called Torres for taking a dive unless he thought it was such a slight contact that Torres could have continued his run.
- Contact or not, Torres embellished his fall. In slow motion, it certainly appears that Torres could have continued his run or regained it with a stumble—but he purposefully hit the turf.
- Torres' reputation precedes him. Let's ignore his sulky, often whiny persona for a moment—would you really be surprised to see Torres take a dive in the course of the game? Would you ever give Torres the benefit of the doubt on a tough call like the one that sent him off?
Chances are you wouldn't. Chances are you would simply assume Torres was engaging in a bit of gamesmanship, especially if the contact wasn't obvious to your naked eye at full speed.
And that's what I think went through official Mark Clattenburg's mind as he was tasked with making the call.
Now, don't get me wrong—I believe the card should have gone to Evans, not Torres. To my eye, Evans makes contact and impedes a clear path for Torres. Mark Payne of ESPN called Clattenburg's decision "incredibly harsh" and had the following to add:
Jonny Evans was the most surprised of all; his expression suggested he expected to be penalised for the foul. The players were all a little nonplussed by the send-off. It makes no sense to this correspondent, and it ruined what had been a very enjoyable game until that point.
I agree with Payne—Clattenburg botched the call. But had it been a player other than Torres, would Clattenburg have decided against giving a card? Would he have assumed nefarious intent had it been a different member of Chelsea?
In this case, I think Torres' reputation did him in and cost him the benefit of the doubt. Chelsea can blame the referee for either missing the contact or deeming it too slight to call—and let's not even get started on the offside call that was missed on Javier Hernandez's game-winning goal—but the perception of Torres certainly contributed.
And that is on his shoulders, and his shoulders alone.
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