With more than a whiff of déjà vu Manchester City kicked off their Premier League campaign at the Etihad, victims of woeful refereeing and wayward finishing.
A stunning strike by Raheem Sterling gave City a deserved equaliser after battling against Everton – more appropriately called the Travelling Toffee Troupe – as befitted their theatrical offerings on the night.
Any thespian worth his salt would’ve been clapping in the wings at the antics of young Dominic Calvert-Lewin – definitely BAFTA winning material!
Calvert-Lewin is used to the big stage having helped England win the Under-20 World Cup in South Korea just two months ago.
His experience of the Korean Peninsula served him well as Kyle Walker’s arm brushed his chest, before the Everton forward dropped to the floor as if hit by one of Kim Jong-un’s intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Of course North Korea’s nutty leader wasn’t responsible on this occasion, but neither was Walker.
Nonetheless, City’s new full back was shown a second yellow card, the obligatory red followed from ‘Mad Bob’ Madley – resplendent in referee’s costume – but presumably ‘role playing’ and only mimicking being a competent official.
It was a proper pantomime. Farcical didn’t come close.
Surely City weren’t being screwed by dodgy decisions with less than three halves of the new season played? Oh, yes they were.
But wait, post match redemption for the wronged Walker would surely come via the new FA rules, designed to crack down on the cheats? Oh, yes it would – but this is Manchester City were talking about here, so – oh no it wouldn’t!
The much vaunted regulations to rid the beautiful game of ‘simulation’ and all other associated shenanigans, appear strangely inactive after Monday night’s installment of the Everton Chronicles.
Going under the snappy heading of ‘The Successful Deception of a Match Official’, the new law makes it possible for Walker to have his second caution – and therefore his sending off – rescinded, by an ‘Independent Regulatory Commission’.
Furthermore it would also facilitate a two-match ban for Calvert-Lewin’s antics, in feigning contact between his mug and Walker’s elbow.
The alleged foul simply didn’t happen. The world and his wife knew it hadn’t happened, even Everton manager Ronald Koeman conceded it hadn’t happened.
Only the supporting cast of Dumb and Dumber, played by Madley and his flag waving assistant, believed it had happened thanks to Calvert-Lewin’s stunning performance.
If Madley truly believed Walker had deliberately elbowed Calvert-Lewin in the face, it should’ve been a straight red card, so why was it only a yellow, albeit it still had the same consequence of reducing City to 10 men?
If the FA could actually be arsed to apply their own rule it would go something like this:
“Where there is clear and overwhelming evidence to suggest a match official has been deceived by an act of simulation, and as a direct result, the offending player’s team has been awarded a penalty and/or an opposing player has been dismissed, The FA will be able to act retrospectively under its Fast Track system.
A panel consisting of one ex-match official, one ex-manager and one ex-player will be asked to review all available video footage of the incident independently of one another and then advise The FA as to whether they believe it was an offence of ‘Successful Deception of a Match Official’. Only in circumstances where the panel are unanimous would The FA charge the individual concerned.
This process would be similar to the one used now for a red card offence [violent conduct/serious foul play/spitting at an opponent] which was not seen at the time by the match officials but caught on camera. In this situation, three ex-elite match officials review all the available video footage independently of one another and then advise The FA as to whether they believe it was an offence worthy of instant dismissal.
In accepted and/or proven cases of simulation and/or feigning injury, the offending player would receive a two-match suspension.”
Now, nearly 48 hours on, it begs the question why hasn’t a three-man commission, comprising an ex-referee, ex-manager and ex-player, been convened to scrutinise Walker’s sending off?
The City haters and baiters in the media actually praised Calvert-Lewin’s deceit, saying the young striker ‘…showed great cunning to play a role in getting Kyle Walker sent off.’
Clearly the theatre critics, writing on the Guardian’s sports pages, admired Oscar nominee Calvert-Lewin’s guile and Madley’s gullibility in equal measure.
The same pernicious press then had the gall to point the finger of suspicion at Sergio Aguero, implying he connived to get Morgan Schneiderlin sent off.
Aguero was clearly caught by the ‘Everton Enforcer’ having his standing leg taken from under him, despite the Frenchman winning the ball first.
Whether it warranted a booking is highly debatable, but Aguero’s reaction was nowhere near the malice aforethought that went into Calvert-Lewin’s histrionics.
So why haven’t City challenged Walker’s second yellow card under the new regulations? Pep Guardiola’s refusal to discuss Walker’s dismissal in the after match press conference spoke volumes.
Walker has even come out on social media and apologised to the City fans and his team mates, praising them for getting back into the game in his absence and earning a point.
The paradox is City’s new full back has nothing for which to apologise – he was the one sinned against, not the sinner.
It’s ironic that when Walker last played at the Etihad for Spurs in January, he escaped a certain sending off when hauling back Raheem Sterling in Tottenham’s penalty box.
But now that he wears sky blue he attracts unwarranted yellows and reds – a colourful conundrum, but one which can be easily answered if you’re a City fan.
The FA’s lack of interest in applying their own rules is as lamentable as it is predictable, given it’s only City who stand to benefit.
Apart from Madley stinking the place out, City must’ve been downwind of the muck-spreading machine themselves, because their finishing was far from sweet.
Half time sub, Sterling was the only City player to have his shooting boots correctly calibrated when he volleyed home to make it 1-1 in the 82nd minute.
David Silva’s first half shot hammered off Jordan Pickford’s post, whereas others, Aguero in particular, were bemusingly profligate in front of goal.
Even at this very early stage of 2017/18 some City supporters are apprehensive that history is already repeating itself.
Notwithstanding City played 10 men against 12 for the bulk of the match, they had 65% possession and 19 shots (six on target), contrasting with Everton’s two shots on target, one of which was converted by the repugnant merkin-wearing grannyshagger so revered by Sky Sports et al.
One would like to think Guardiola has it within his gift to ensure City are less wasteful in front of goal this time around and less fragile at the back.
He has little or no control on the errant standards of officiating that so appalled and frustrated him in his debut season in English football, and show every sign of doing so again.
Perhaps if City start being clinical and convert goal scoring opportunities it won’t wound them so deeply when opponents and officialdom combine to try to cut them down to size.
By David Walker
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu