Beating Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium is a right, old good feeling. Liverpool have a solid record against the Potters over the last few seasons, but in some part of my mind it’s always Sebastian Coates blunders and Robert Huth ultraviolence. Putting three passed Stoke on their home turf while keeping a clean sheet helps push those hurtful memories to the way, way back.
While Liverpool were largely dominant, Stoke were given space to move and counter attack on and off throughout the match. It was a tough game. Physical. Chilly. Wednesday. And there were a fair few yellow cards divvied out by Martin Atkinson for unsavory play. I don’t have the final tally in front of me but I’d guess that most of those cards were handed out to the players wearing that classic Liverpool orange.
But then it’s not the quantity of cards that we’re here to talk about. It’s just one card in particular. One card that overshadows them all. Simon Mignolet, please rise.
It was nearing halftime and the Reds were up 1-0. Mame Biram Diouf had a moment. He was at the top of Liverpool’s box. The Liverpool defense was, let’s say, not doing great. Mignolet rushed from his line towards to the incoming Diouf while Dejan Lovren, Joël Matip and Joe Gomez were just sort ushering in the Stoke City midfielder to the box. “Right this way, please. Our goal is just here beyond the on-rushing Belgian.”
Mignolet made a hash of it. His challenge on Diouf was a bad thing. He didn’t get the ball and took out Diouf at the top of the box, just inches outside the line. Not a penalty. But it looked like a certain red card since, with Mignolet out of the way, Diouf would have had a clear shot on goal.
Not so, said the referee, and a yellow card was shown. Stoke City supporters were not happy. Mark Hughes probably used profanity words.
“That’s the key moment in the game from our point of view,” said Hughes.
“I just don’t understand why the referee and the officials couldn’t see that for what it was. A clear goal-scoring opportunity.
“If the keeper doesn’t wipe Mame Diouf out, it’s a tap-in into an empty net and at that point it’s 1-1 and game on.”
It’s fantastic that Liverpool weren’t made to play the entire second half with ten men. It would have been difficult to hold onto a one goal lead in those circumstances. Especially, given that Hughes’s team was on the rise at the time, pushing back against Liverpool and threatening to level the score. The outcome could have been very different if Simon was forced off.
Jürgen Klopp, however, doesn’t share Hughes’ view of the moment.
“We needed a little bit of luck in the situation around the yellow card for Simon Mignolet,” said Klopp.
“I don’t think it was a red card, but of course they could have scored in that situation and then the free kick in this situation for Shaqiri is a real threat.”
When pressed to expound his interpretation of the event, Klopp was insistent that other Liverpool players were still involved in the play and that Mignolet was correctly judged by Atkinson.
“That’s the reason, that’s the rule,” Klopp said. “If you think the single foul was a red card, okay, I’d have to see it again but I don’t think it was. He was not the last man, there were two covering players in our shirt. That’s the rule pretty clear.”
So there you have it. Another controversial call. Another contentious incident for the headlines. Another historic moment in That’s Football. Should Mignolet have stayed?