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 By Mike Whalley

Rodgers defends referee criticism

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers believes he has a strong case to defend himself if he is charged by the Football Association regarding his criticism of referee Lee Mason.

• Walsh: Excellent in defeat
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Sources have told ESPN that the FA are investigating the comments Rodgers made about Mason after the 2-1 Premier League defeat at Manchester City on Boxing Day.

The Liverpool manager was angry that Raheem Sterling had a first-half goal wrongly ruled out for offside, and also believed Luis Suarez should have had a late penalty.

And in his post match news conference, Rodgers questioned the appointment of Mason as referee for the game.

He cited the fact that Mason should not have put in charge of the match because his hometown of Bolton is so close to the Etihad Stadium.

The FA must decide whether Rodgers’ comments breach rule E3 (1), which covers any remarks that imply a match official is biased.

But speaking ahead of Liverpool’s Premier League trip to Chelsea on Sunday, Rodgers insisted that he had not intended to cast doubt on Mason’s integrity.

The manager said: "In terms of geography, I wasn’t questioning the integrity of referees. It was more the logic of someone from that part of the world refereeing a game in Manchester.

"I suspect Mike Dean, from the Wirral [near Liverpool], wouldn’t have refereed many games involving Liverpool.

"My team were brilliant yesterday and we had no help whatsoever."

Rodgers also stressed that he is not a manager given to criticising referees on a regular basis.

He said: "I think the FA know perfectly well I’m someone who is supportive of referees.

"I’m not someone who is berating them during games. Neither I nor my staff ever chase the fourth officials.

"I’ve had a number of referees here at the training ground and support what they do. So the FA know that when I make a statement like that, I am speaking honestly.

"The decision-making during the game yesterday was poor, and I have to speak on behalf of the supporters at this club.

 "If you look at my record since I have been a manager, I have never had any indiscretions against my name. I don't play games.

"I fight my corner but I always have respect."

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