Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez claimed Peter Crouch was provoked into his two-footed challenge on Chelsea midfielder Mikel John Obi which earned him a red card on Wednesday night.
The dismissal for the England forward capped a miserable night for the Reds, who lost 2-0 in the Carling Cup quarter-final clash at Stamford Bridge with the Blues' goals coming from Frank Lampard and Andriy Shevchenko.
Benitez admitted Crouch's 59th-minute tackle was a bad one but felt referee Martin Atkinson should have blown his whistle earlier for a foul by Obi on Crouch.
'If you watch the replay where Mikel was trying to kick Crouch, then you blow your whistle and avoid the sending off - the red card. Sometimes the referee must be a little bit quicker,' the Spanish boss said.
'Mikel kicked him twice and that was the reason Crouch lost his head. I have seen more dangerous tackles in the last month and sometimes it is a yellow card and sometimes it is nothing. Unbelievable.
'The timing is the key for me. After this decision you finish the game.
'I am disappointed because we have lost. The team has played really well, I am really pleased with their performance.
'I thought we had chances and when we had 11 players, we were playing really well - passing and defending well. Chelsea are still a good team, like they were before.'
Chelsea manager Avram Grant said Crouch had no reason to launch his waist-height lunge on Obi even if the Blues midfielder had been guilty of kicking the Liverpool striker.
Grant said: 'Crouch didn't need to do it. I don't think Rafa was angry about the red card, he said something about something that happened before.
'I respect him a lot. He is a very good manager. Maybe he was angry. But first it was a bad tackle and second the number of the fouls Liverpool made on Mikel in the first half was about seven or eight.
'The priority is to protect players from bad tackles that can hurt them. I didn't see Mikel kick Crouch but even so he didn't need to do what he did.
'This game is a wonderful one. It is one you need to play aggressive and you need to play fast. It is not easy for the referees. If you look at videos of the game five years ago, you think they are in slow motion.
'The game has developed a lot because there are more athletic players. I like the players to play aggressively but I don't like players to hurt others, especially when they don't need to do it.
'The tackle on John Terry against Arsenal on Sunday (by Emmanuel Eboue) and on Mikel today - the players did not need to do it.'