During Saturday’s cup tie between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield, Patrice Evra – who was racially abused by Luis Suarez in the league encounter between the two sides last October – was subjected to constant booing, chants of “One lying bastard”, and at least one supporter making monkey gestures at him – pictures of which made their way around Twitter following the match. While Liverpool have issued an apology on their website today in response to the photo, the club has not covered itself in glory throughout this affair. Initially, the Merseysiders went all out to place the blame on the Manchester United left-back, claiming he was making everything up; then, after Suarez was found guilty by the Football Association of calling Evra “Negro” seven times (he admitted to using the word once), the Liverpool team came out for their pre-game warmup for their encounter against Wigan wearing t-shirts supporting the Uruguayan. Even after the commission released their findings on the incident, the club issued a statement defending their own player, while suggesting that Evra was at least partly to blame. The right thing for the club to have done was say: “Luis used a word that is commonly used in his home country, but he now realises is offensive and he apologies to Patrice Evra whole-heartedly” – this could have diffused the whole issue. While there is a tribal hatred between fans of United and Liverpool, this does not excuse racist behaviour, nor the violence, or singing of songs about the Munich or Hillsborough tragedies, that happens whenever these two sides meet.
On the pitch, Kenny Dalglish’s men got one over on their old enemy – Park’s strike before time had cancelled out an error by United’s Keeper, De
Gea, that had allowed Agger to open the scoring, but a late Dirk Kuyt goal gave the home side a narrow 2-1 win. QPR and Chelsea faced each other for the first time since their contentious league match which Rangers won and resulted in a racism charge against John Terry – a case he faces this week. In an exact reverse of the Premiership game, it was Chelsea who got the victory thanks to a controversial penalty decision going their way. In other games: a header from Marouane Fellaini gave Everton a place in the fifth round at Fulham’s expense; Spurs were completely outplayed by Championship side Watford, yet progressed as Rafael Van der Vaart scored the only goal of the game; Arsenal came back from 2-0 down at half-time to knock-out Aston Villa at the Emirates; Bolton beat Swansea; and Leicester City took care of business at home against lower-league Swindon Town. There were two upsets – Brighton, of the Championship, beat top-flight Newcastle; and League Two’s richest club, Crawley Town, won away at Hull City, who are two divisions above them in the league pyramid.
This week sees midweek Premiership fixtures, as well as the closing of the transfer window at 11pm UK time on the 31st January, meaning sides will no longer be able to add to their squads for the remainder of the season. On Tuesday: Chelsea travel to Wales to face Swansea; Tottenham host Wigan; Liverpool are away at Wolves; first-placed Manchester City take on Everton at Goodison Park; and Manchester United entertain Stoke. The next night, Arsenal will try to stop a run of three straight league defeats when they play Bolton at the Reebok Stadium; Fulham play West Brom; Aston Villa are home against QPR; Blackburn and Newcastle meet at Ewood Park; and Sunderland host Norwich.
Last time, 1-9 (so take the below with a grain of salt!); Season 82-108
Swansea vs Chelsea – Draw
Tottenham vs Wigan – Home win
Wolves vs Liverpool – Draw
Everton vs Manchester City – Away win
Manchester United vs Stoke – Home win
Aston Villa vs QPR – Draw
Blackburn vs Newcastle – Home win
Bolton vs Arsenal – Away win
Fulham vs West Brom – Home win
Sunderland vs Norwich – Home win