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Byline: Michael Calvin

Do we want football, fit only for the grey men of the Health and Safety executive? Do we really need referees who have the spirit of sanitation inspectors? what's the point of making risk assessment visits to teams, when you don't sense the mood? Answers on a postcard, please to Martin Atkinson.

He effectively decided the 216th Merseyside derby.

To be on the safe side, copy them in triplicate to Mike Riley and his chums at the Professional Game Match officials Board.

They'll close ranks, of course. They always do. The gulf between them, and distinguished football men like David Moyes, will continue to widen.

we'll start with the usual disclaimers.

Referees have a fiendishly difficult job. They are human.

Players have the morals of three card tricksters.

The Premier League is populated by quick, muscular, impeccably conditioned athletes. But something is missing. It's called common sense.

Atkinson was damned by haste of his decision to dismiss Jack Rodwell, and should be allowed to repent at leisure.

If a player made an error of such magnitude, and failed to raise his game, he would be dropped.

Atkinson sent off the young everton midfield player for the sort of challenge patented in this fixture, quick and fully committed.

It wasn't a foul, and it reflected the emotional intensity of the afternoon. It was another illustration of what happens when officials know the laws, but not the game.

The rule book may offer 'excessive force' as an excuse, but let's get real. In the heyday of Tommy Smith and Brian Labone, where warriors reached an accommodation with referees, Rodwell would have had his hair ruffled in admiration.

everton resisted as long as possible.

There was a grim inevitability about Liverpool's goals, when minds and bodies were tired.

The game confirmed what we are in danger of losing.

It was raw, compelling, a throwback to the days when football clubs were places to take the pulse of a town or city.

Kenny Dalglish (left) may insist he has moved on, but no one else is remotely inclined to do so. This is one of the purest derbies, if not as friendly as the locals would have us believe.

Strip it of its folklore and it loses its point.

everton fans don't need a song to remind us they know their history. Dalglish's distress, after that fabled 4-4 draw in 1991, is a memory, shared on either side of Stanley Park.

Loyalties endure. As the banner behind the goal, in which Liverpool scored, read: "evertonians are born not manufactured" whoever played Town Called Malice as tempers simmered at half-time had an appropriate sense of humour. The missiles flung at goalscorers Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez, benefited no-one but the jobsworths, at the FA.

The tribal howl when Tim Howard flung himself to his left to save Dirk Kuyt's penalty would have startled dogs in Manchester.

It was the highpoint of everton's afternoon.

Booing Atkinson, as he left with a nervous escort, was no compensation.


?PAIN GAME: Rodwell was sent off for tackling Luis Suarez
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 2, 2011
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