Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes referee Howard Webb denied his side a “blatant penalty” as they were eliminated from the FA Cup following a tight 2-1 defeat to Arsenal at Emirates Stadium.
Webb had earlier awarded Liverpool a spot kick when Luis Suarez tumbled under a challenge from Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski, but the official then opted to wave away a second appeal as the Uruguay international was brought down by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain inside the box.
The referee had a good view of the incident that proved to be the key talking point of a thrilling fifth-round tie, and Rodgers claimed the 2010 World Cup final official had made a big mistake.
“It was a blatant penalty,” Rodgers told BT Sport. “It was more clear and blatant than the first one. The first one, Luis got clipped so it was a clear penalty, but the second one was clearer.
“Luis got a touch on the ball, young Alex has taken him out and it was a strange decision. I certainly thought it was a penalty decision and a clear one.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain insisted he was “not worried” as he clashed with Suarez in the penalty box, as he suggested Webb made the right call to dismiss Liverpool’s penalty appeals.
“There are penalty shouts in most games and you only have to worry about the ones that get given,” Oxlade-Chamberlain said. “Thankfully that one was not given and we had some at the other end as well.”
Despite the defeat, Rodgers took plenty of positives from his side’s display against the Gunners, as he claimed it provided further evidence of their growing strength.
“I thought the best team lost and the very least we deserved was a replay,” Rodgers said. “We could have been 2-0 up early on and we are disappointed with the goals. Going forward I felt we were a real threat, playing with real confidence and belief. We are bitterly disappointed not to get something from it.
“We came here earlier in the season and lost 2-0 whilst we were still developing, but we came here today and dominated the game. You could see from early on the confidence and belief we now have.
“We obviously wanted to get to the final, but it is not to be. We have one competition to concentrate on now between now and the end of the season and we have to focus on these final 12 games.”
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said his side’s “mental strength and mental response” was the most pleasing aspect of his side’s success, coming just a week after their 5-1 defeat at Anfield in the Premier League.
“I’m very proud of the way we responded to the huge defeat last week and that was very pleasing,” Wenger said. “Liverpool are a fantastic offensive force and we had to be strong.
“It was a great football game and winning makes you stronger. There was a lot of suspicions that we would sacrifice that game today, but the best way to answer that was to give the effort we showed today.”