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Fifth Official: Refs take some headlines

Few of us like Monday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a five-star weekend.

Two yellows don't always make a red

The most distasteful thing about Younes Kaboul's needless sending off was the smug, remorseless face of referee Steve Bennett as he delivered the defender's second yellow for whipping his shirt off after he rescued a late point for Yoda's men at Sunderland. At least have a little compassion Bennett, soften the blow a little, shrug your shoulders, give a wry smile. But no, Bennett delivered the card like Kaboul had just given his elderly Grandma a wedgie.

It's a brainless rule anyway. Who cares if a player gets his pecs out after a goal? As long as he's not getting anything else out what does it matter? Fair enough, if the goalscorer leaps feet first into the home end and starts punching a ten-year-old seconds after he's scored, the ref needs to have a word, but if it's merely showing off their guns to a jubilant away end should that really be seen as a heinous transgression?

The other player on the wrong end of an unjustified yellow this weekend was Craig Bellamy, after he was given his second for a supposed dive at Bolton. Having already been booked for that machine-gun gob of his, it meant he got his marching orders too.

His incredulous face was almost a thing of beauty while Mark Hughes raged at ref Mark Clattenberg: "I also don't appreciate when the referees coming out for the second half start making comments about who they do or do not like in my team. '' I should have thought it'd be a lot quicker for them to narrow down who they DID like in your team of egomaniacs Mark.

Who wants it then?

You'd think the Premier League trophy was smeared in swine flu the way Chelsea and Manchester United fluffed their lines on Saturday. Chelsea conceded their first home league goals since the opening day of the season, while Manchester United failed to score at Old Trafford for the first time this campaign.

Petr Cech was the culprit at Stamford Bridge, and it all adds weight to the argument that's he's not the same keeper since Stephen Hunt nearly kicked his face off back in 2006. He was a tad unfortunate that Didier Drogba's clearing header cannoned into the net off the back of Louis Saha's head but still, he was stranded in a more compromising position than Tiger Woods. He later expressed his 'surprise' at the flurry of boos he received from the Stamford Bridge fickle, err, sorry, I mean faithful.

As for United, they were as rotten as Villa were great. Wayne Rooney had the sort of game that leads one to the assertion that the part of his brain that makes critical footballing decisions was on holiday. In essence, he had the sort of game that matched his off-field IQ.

Go Figueroa

I've had a problem this week, with a disgusting image that has been lodged in my brain since Tuesday morning. It's the picture of a furious, and fully naked, Tony Pulis trying to attack James Beattie in the dressing rooms at the Emirates. It keeps popping into my mind at inconvenient times, like when I'm in the bank, or on the phone to my auntie.

Apparently the row, or should I say the alleged row, was over Stoke's Christmas lash up, which was scheduled for the evening immediately after their inevitable defeat at Arsenal last Saturday. Tony is insisting what goes on in the dressing room stays in the dressing room, presumably so we don't end up hearing about how cold it was in there.

Thankfully, the image was dispelled by Maynor Figueroa, who scored the sort of blockbuster from just inside his own half you only see once or twice a decade. The sight of a back peddling Thomas Sorensen, followed by that glorious net bulge that signalled Figueroa had dreamed the impossible dream and nailed it, has thankfully banished all thoughts of little Tony far from my mind once and for all.

You're not fit to wear the shirt

It's extraordinarily easy to kick a club when they are down, which is why I love doing it so much. The thing I enjoyed most, as Liverpool slumped to their second home defeat in the space of five days, was the fact that Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Alberto 'one step forwards, two steps back' Aquilani all played a major part in both games.

Xabi Alonso was over from Spain to have a look at how bad things have got, and presumably, to laugh in Rafa's face now every Liverpool fan under the sun is suddenly pointing to his departure as the reason for their struggles. Not that he'd have seen much evidence of Liverpool's demise in the first half as they bossed the game and made Arsenal look as ordinary as they've been feeling recently.

It all prompted an almighty kick-off at half-time in Arsenal's dressing room. Cesc Fabregas looked genuinely scared even during his post-match interview when he recalled the moment that Arsene lost the plot and told his players they weren't fit to wear the shirt after 45 minutes where they actually made a pitiful Liverpool side look half decent. "It is good because after 13 years I can still surprise the players,' muttered the wise one. The last time his squad were this dumbfounded was when Arsene took an unexpected day off in the summer of 2002.

The December Fight Club

What is it about the month of December? Everybody seems up for a fight. Last week it was managers Tony Pulis and Jim Magilton getting a bit punchy, but at least they had the good grace to attack their own players (allegedly, allegedly, and another allegedly, just for good measure) behind closed doors. The same cannot be said of Benoit Assou-Ekotto and our old, unhinged pal Jens Lehmann.

Assou-Ekotto reportedly grabbed a Spurs fans round the throat after receiving a volley of abuse when he was substituted in the defeat to Wolves. The claims would be less believable had we not saw him rake his studs down Tim Cahill's head at Goodison Park last week, then square up to Maroune Fellaini, who is nearly double the size of the defender, in frame and in afro.

Jens' week of weird behaviour was a little more light-hearted and amusing, as ever. First he appeared to relieve himself behind the advertising hoardings during the midweek Champions League tie with Unirea Urziceni, before costing his side two points on Sunday. Stuttgart were heading for a 1-0 win over Mainz before the loose cannon trod on striker Aristide Bance's foot for no reason, conceded a penalty and was sent off all in one fluid motion. Mainz equalised and Jens left the stadium in a hurry, pausing only to pinch a fan's glasses, hand them back a while later, then wander about the ground desperately looking for the exit. Pure comedy gold. I miss that man, don't you?


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