Night of shame! Bone-crunching stars darken the Premier League on wild Wednesday
05 March 2009 12:22
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So top-flight footballers don't put in crunching tackles any more, eh?
A quick glance around the Barclays Premier League grounds would suggest otherwise - there were horrific challenges flying in left, right and centre last night.
The Boxing Day bloodbath of 2007, when 19 red cards were shown in the four English divisions, should be a distant memory.
Ricardo Carvalho's two-footed lunge on Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor in the 4-4 draw at Stamford Bridge and Reading's Brynjar Gunnarsson's horrible two-footed challenge on West Ham's Hayden Mullins should belong to a different era.
At the time, Sportsmail's referee expert Graham Poll said: 'Bad tackling has become fashionable because players believe they can get away with it. Only now are referees reacting properly with red cards issued for the lack of control in so many challenges.'
But has it made any difference? Does a red card and a three-match ban enter players' heads as they slide in with little regard for their fellow professionals' well-being?
Martin Taylor's late tackle on Eduardo, which broke the Arsenal player's leg and out forced him out of the game for 11 months, and the moment of madness from Newcastle's Danny Guthrie that left Hull's Craig Fagan on the sidelines for five months, are just recent examples.
As Carlton Cole, Scott Parker, Lucas Neill, Lee Cattermole and Nemanja Vidic showed last night, players still lose it in the heat of the moment.
The game at the JJB Stadium was punctuated by a series of horrible tackles last night. Was it just a coincidence that it was 26-year-old Stuart Attwell in charge?
Or did the players subconsciously think they might be able to get away with more with the young ref in the middle?
Cole set the tone with a one-footed challenge on Michael Brown, clattering into the Wigan player and earning a yellow card for his trouble. The second challenge was clumsy, but Wigan boss Steve Bruce disputed it was a sending off offence.
Cole's right foot was far too high - high enough to kick Emerson Boyce in the face as the Wigan player stooped to head the ball - but he was going for the ball.
Brown appeared to encourage Attwell to show a second yellow and he did, meaning West Ham's goalscorer saw red nine minutes before the interval.
The West Ham midfielder received a yellow card for his high challenge on Michael Brown. Parker showed his studs and also managed to commit a handball in a clumsy attempt to win the ball.
Parker was lucky to escape a second booking after Cole was shown a second yellow card. Parker was incensed by Brown's apparent attempts to get his team-mate sent off and voiced his disapproval at Attwell. Brown was booked but Attwell didn't see Parker mouthing off - funny that.
Neill's tackle - if you can call it that - on Cattermole looked like a straight red card. Yet, somehow, Attwell decided it was only worth of a yellow.
The challenge was pre-meditated, as the West Ham player chased after the ball with Cattermole in his sights, and Neill went in with his studs up, hitting his opponent on the right ankle but, thankfully, causing no damage.
Bruce said: 'His tackle was horrific. That's the one thing we want to stamp out because that tackle was a horror tackle.'
The worst challenge of the game. Cattermole came in from an angle, sliding in from the side and slightly behind the West Ham player and clattering Parker on the right ankle. You could see it coming as Cattermole sprinted towards Parker with the red mist descending.
It was all happening in the north of England last night. Steven Taylor's attempts to bear hug Cristiano Ronaldo at Newcastle by wrapping his arms around the United player's neck did not go down well, but Vidic's lunge at Obafemi Martins was savage.
The Manchester United defender watched Martins skip past him, then opened up his body and kicked across the Newcastle player with his right leg.
Vidic had no intention of trying to win the ball and his challenge on the edge of the penalty area was clumsy and potentially dangerous. He received a yellow card.
Martins then went for revenge by planting an elbow in Vidic's face in the second half.