Fuming Crystal Palace boss Alan Pardew accused Liverpool forward Christian Benteke of diving as the powerful Belgium striker won and converted a contentious last-gasp penalty to consign the struggling Eagles to more Premier League misery yesterday.
The Reds were awarded a stoppage-time spot-kick after a sliding Damien Delaney was adjudged to have fouled Benteke. While the Irish defender looked to pull out of the challenge, replays showed his right knee made contact with Benteke’s heel.
Assistant referee Scott Ledger flagged for the penalty, despite referee Andre Marriner appearing unsure of it’s veracity. Nevertheless, Benteke calmly slotted home.
Palace had earlier taken the lead in the opening stages of the second period through midfielder Joe Ledley, although Liverpool levelled courtesy of forward Roberto Firmino despite being down to 10 men following the dismissal of England’s James Milner.
“If you’re the referee and see the centre-half pulling out of the challenge, you don’t give the penalty, and I don’t think he did,” said Pardew. “The linesman assumes that little touch is a penalty. Benteke makes the most of it.
“If that touch warrants a collapse like that, then wow. We really need to say: ‘Come on’. That touch doesn’t warrant the dive he makes, and it’s the dive that makes up the linesman’s mind.
“I’ve just heard [Sky Sports pundit] Jamie Carragher saying there was contact and Benteke was within his rights to go down. Jamie Carragher is saying that? He’s an ex pro. Come on.
“I’m disappointed with both of them [Benteke and the referee]. You’ve got to be sure, particularly at that stage of the game, and he couldn’t have been sure. It’s a knee on the back of the foot. It’s hardly a touch. He made a big meal of it in my opinion.”
Palace are now winless in 12 league matches dating back to 19 December, although they have enjoyed FA Cup victories over Southampton, Stoke and Tottenham in that period and face a quarter-final tie at Championship outfit Reading on Friday.
But their turbulent league form has seen them plummet to 15th in the standings, nine points clear of the relegation zone, having previously eyed qualification for Europe.
Palace had looked on course for victory when Ledley lashed a low left-footed effort beyond Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet from the edge of the penalty area in the 48th minute after a spot of pinball in the Liverpool box.
Milner was then dismissed for a second bookable offence before Palace goalkeeper Alex McCarthy slipped to present Firmino with a free run at goal and a chance that he duly converted.
Benteke was left to assume centre stage as he ultimately ended his near 12-hour goal-drought. Liverpool recorded a third straight win for the first time this season and rose to seventh, six points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester City.