Premier League

Johnson accuses Valencia of cheating

Antonio Valencia (C) is awarded a penalty following a challenge by Glen Johnson (R).
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Liverpool duo Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson have sprung to the defence of Luis Suarez and urged referees not to judge the striker on the reputation he has gained for diving.

The Uruguay international, who was booked the previous week at Sunderland for such an offence, could have had a penalty in Sunday's 2-1 defeat to Manchester United after a tackle by Jonny Evans.

However, his appeals were turned down by referee Mark Halsey and both Gerrard and Johnson believe the 25-year-old is suffering from the label given to him during a difficult period last season.

"I think even when Luis does get blatant penalties now he doesn't get them," said Gerrard.

"It is down to referees to not judge him and give what they see - if it's not a penalty don't give him one but if it's clear give it.

"He was booked at Sunderland but against United it was a penalty."

Johnson echoed the sentiments of his captain by adding: "Everyone has to do their job: they have to forget about who they are looking at and make their decisions and not let anything from the past affect their decision.

"They have to call the shots at the time, regardless of who it is."

Johnson found himself on the receiving end when he conceded the match-winning spot-kick at Anfield after Antonio Valencia went down in the area.

The England right-back was fuming as he claimed he did not touch the Ecuadorian, whom he accused of cheating.

"I've watched it 50 times - not that I needed to - because it wasn't a penalty, I didn't touch him, I have collided with Pepe (Reina)," said the England international.

"Reputations go in front of people at times and because Valencia is not a known diver that is why he got the decision.

"I almost guarantee if it was exactly the same situation and it was Luis and not Valencia then it wouldn't be a penalty.

"It is cheating at the end of the day, that's what people call it.

"You can't describe [the feeling] but you don't expect people to do that - they are better than that.

"This is one the best leagues in the world and you've got someone doing that.

"I know it is difficult for the referee when we are sprinting as fast as we can but in the big games they are the differences and we expect the referees to make the right decisions.

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"We are working as hard as we can to win the game and to have that taken away like that .... I can't explain it.

"The referee said to me he had to give it so he obviously thought I had touched him. It is frustrating because I've not touched him."

Manager Brendan Rodgers felt referees had to get wiser and not be fooled by acts of simulation, while at the same time recognising that when people go down in the area it is not automatically a penalty or a dive.

"You see it in the modern game, across the board, a number of players go to ground too easily and they get their rewards sometimes," he said.

"Antonio Valencia has gone to ground and got a penalty for it with near-enough no contact.

"If you look at Luis last week away at Sunderland he goes down, there is contact but he gets booked for it then yesterday he didn't get it.

"Every foul or maybe someone going to the floor isn't always a booking."

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