Suarez center stage as Liverpool, Chelsea draw 2-2
The two sides of Luis Suarez were on full display Sunday as the Liverpool striker first bit an opponent's arm and then scored a last-minute equalizer for Liverpool in a 2-2 draw against Chelsea in the Premier League.
In the latest chapter in his controversial career, the Uruguay international tussled with Branislav Ivanovic in Chelsea's penalty box and television pictures showed Suarez biting the top of the defender's right arm. In 2010, Suarez was banned for seven matches for biting an opponent while playing for Ajax against PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch league, earning him the tag `Cannibal of Ajax.'
Suarez issued an apology hours after the match, but was harshly criticized by both club officials and pundits.
''I'm sad for what happened this afternoon, I apologize (to) Ivanovic and all football world for my inexcusable behaviour,'' Suarez said on Twitter. ''I'm so sorry about it!!''
As usual, Suarez was the center of attention throughout a frenetic match at Anfield, giving away a penalty with a needless handball to allow Eden Hazard to convert the spot kick and put Chelsea ahead in the 57th minute.
But the striker - who is the Premier League's leading scorer - made amends by glancing in Daniel Sturridge's cross with seconds remaining at Anfield.
That still failed to overshadow the biting incident that could land him another long ban. He was suspended for eight games last season for hurling racist insults to Manchester United defender Patrice Evra during a match.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers initially refused to comment on the incident, but criticized Suarez after watching replays.
''Having reviewed the video footage and spoken to Luis, his behavior is unacceptable and I have made him aware of this,'' Rodgers said in a statement issued by Liverpool.
The club's managing director Ian Ayre said Suarez's behavior ''is not befitting of any player wearing a Liverpool shirt and Luis is aware that he has let himself and everyone associated with the club down.''
Interim Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez, who was denied a winning return to the club he led to the Champions League title in 2005 during a six-year spell at Anfield, said he didn't see the biting incident and refused to comment
Benitez recently said he would return to manage Liverpool one day and his family still lives on Merseyside.
The draw left Chelsea in fourth place and one point behind Arsenal, having played a game less, in the race for Champions League qualification. Tottenham is a further point behind after its 3-1 win against Manchester City earlier Sunday.
Oscar put Chelsea ahead in the 26th minute before Suarez supplied a superb cross for substitute Sturridge to sidefoot home in the 52nd.
With his scoring spree this season - the equalizer was his 23rd league goal of the campaign - Suarez was starting to rehabilitate his damaged reputation this season. His penchant for diving aside, even his critics had been starting to warm to one of the world's most gifted players. He is one of the leading contenders for the annual Player of the Year award voted on by fellow footballers.
Yet he remains a magnet for controversy, with few people likely to forget his deliberate handball on the goal line in a World Cup quarterfinal in 2010 that prevented a goal and helped Uruguay qualify for the last four at the expense of Ghana. He was seen celebrating on the sideline when Ghana missed the spot kick.
Suarez was foiled by Ivanovic as he attempted to kick the ball between the center back's legs in the area. As the ball rebounded toward the edge of the area, Suarez turned to his opponent and images clearly showed him biting into Ivanovic's jersey.
Ivanovic shrugged off Suarez and immediately complained to referee Kevin Friend, but to no avail. Suarez wasn't even spoken to by the official, who clearly didn't see the incident.
''I think it would be an injustice to Luis Suarez to talk about (the incident), he has been the best player in the league this season,'' Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard said after the game. ''I think he is the third best player in the world behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.''
Suarez's equalizer came after the allotted six minutes of injury time in the second half and reduced the gap to local rival Everton to five points with four matches remaining.