Suarez & Evra Face Off As Old Trafford Turns Schoolyard
Displaying the kind of dramatic timing only the most wily Hollywood veteran could muster, the return of Luis Suarez to the Liverpool starting line-up after an 8-week suspension just had to be against Manchester United, and the man Suarez was suspended for racially abusing.
Even before a ball had been kicked, Suarez and Patrice Evra proved they were happy to add a few more scenes to the blockbuster tale. When the time came to shake hands, with the crowd waiting to see what would transpire, Suarez brazenly passed over Evra’s outstretched mitt.
This induced a strong reaction from the Frenchman, who wasn’t about to let such disrespect from his nemesis pass unchallenged and he grabbed Suarez by the forearm in a confrontational manner.
But with Suarez continuing down the line, Evra was left to throw his arms up in frustration, and received a calming chat from referee Phil Dowd. It was one-nil Suarez and the game had not yet begun.
Rio Ferdinand let his thoughts be known by in turn refusing to shake Suarez’s hand, and the incident, which will no doubt be replayed more often than the goal of the season, set the tone for a fiery Old Trafford encounter.
The match was only moments old when Suarez charged down a through ball only to pull out at the final second, leaving Ferdinand and Evra to collide awkwardly.
It was impossible not to hear the Benny Hill music playing somewhere in the universe as the three antagonists became entangled in a comical fashion.
The first half finished with the frenzy of an erupting volcano due to a very timely tackle by Ferdinand on Suarez. The Uruguayan played a cute one two with Dirk Kuyt who released his striker into open space and Suarez, who was first to the ball, slalomed around the outstretched leg of a comprehensively beaten but hopefully Patrice Evra.
Although he managed to leap the potential roadblock, Suarez was beaten to the ball by a fraction of a second by a briskly moving Ferdinand who bolwed over the protesting striker in his follow through.
The smirk on Rio’s face was pure poetry, as Suarez put his case ostentatiously to the referee, then the linesman, then back to the referee. They were rightfully unmoved but Suarez was an extremely unsatisfied Old Trafford customer and as the whistle blew to end the first half he contemptuously booted the ball toward the United bench.
A swarm of both players and officials surrounded Suarez with Manchester United winger trying to calm his fiery South American counterpart, one would hope using the English language as to not repeat the confusion of different Spanish dialects that was at the crux of the recent racism case.
But if there was heat going into the locker room, things certainly got a little bit frostier after the break. Suarez came out for the second half blowing into his hands and noticeably shivering at halfway, looking even colder than the reception he’d been given by the Old Trafford crowd. Things were soon to get even worse for the men from Anfield.
It wasn’t all handshakes and collisions as there was a football match going on as well, although it somehow played second fiddle to the pantomime that was going on around it. Wayne Rooney put a stop to the charade with two quick strikes and could have easily had a third following a genius dummy by a scheming Paul Scholes.
Kenny Daglish looked to respond by bringing on Craig Bellamy and Andy Carrol, two characters that have been involved in more than their fair share of on and off the field incidents. But the injection of these two into the game proved as ineffective as the Tory government’s policies on job creation.
Carroll especially was impotent as he managed a simple pass out of play, was flagged for offside and then displayed the insolence of a school bully when Dowd whistled a free kick for him clambering over the back of the united defenders. His reaction, which has become a bit of a staple in recent times was a mouthful of aggressive obscenities that did not require a lip reader.
The next time I’m in Liverpool and a 9 year old with a ponytail poliety inquired as to what the f### I’m looking at, I’ll be sure to let Andy know what a positive influence he’s having on the Liverpudlian community.
With United dominating across the park, Suarez was kept relatively quiet in the second half, but every onlooker knew that sooner or later he would bib up again. Michael Carrick received a yellow card for chopping Suarez down from behind, and from the ensuing free kick, the ball wound up at the striker’s feet. After the simplest of finishes and a celebratory kiss to his right wrist, it was game on.
As the injury time clock kicked down, David de Gea’s finger tips managed to secure Man United’s points for the second time in as many games, and ensure they remain firmly in the hunt for the Premier League title.
The last thing Suarez was expecting was for Evra to pass less than half a meter in front of him, skipping merrily and waving his arms in a manner that would have been better suited to a young, pig-tailed girl jumping rope in the schoolyard.
The crowd appreciated the gesture and voiced their support for the Frenchman, but to the disappointment of all, no reaction was induced from Suarez, who continued to the locker room a dejected figure.
Sir Alex Ferguson labelled the antics of Suarez ‘a disgrace’ and suggested that he should never again play for Liverpool. Manchester United will be relieved to have taken the three points, but in a sense this game was an apt reflection of the season, in that it will be remembered as much for incidents off the pitch as for the remarkable contest on it.