The Fifth Official

Officially poor, Mad Man Mario

April 9, 2012
By The Fifth Official
(Archive)

Few of us like a Monday morning, 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 week brimming with potential victims.

Lee Mason 2-0 Manchester City

Lee Mason
GettyImagesQPR's protests to Lee Mason fall on deaf ears

As the Premier League title race reaches its climax it is vital to rotate your squad in order to prevent fatigue and help keep minds fresh to make important decisions. That's why Fergie took the risk of resting Howard Webb in favour of his mini-me, Lee Mason. And didn't it work a treat? Mason proved himself an able deputy to the main architect of United's success as he turned in the most one-eyed refereeing performance ever seen at Old Trafford.

So many things were wrong with the opening goal it is untrue. First of all, Ashley Young was offside; second of all, Ashley young dived like Shaun Derry had just pulled a pistol from his pants rather than placed a gentle hand on his side. If that constitutes a red card, then all 22 players should be sent off during the pre-match handshake (ironically one way Luis Suarez might actually avoid a card for once).

QPR had pretty much zero chance anyway; Sparky choosing to write this game off by resting Bobby Zamora and Joey Barton, but all hope was extinguished in the blink of an eye. It meant another afternoon of pundits purring over the passing of Paul Scholes, and calls for him to take his zimmerframe to Euro 2012 grew louder with every single chump neglecting to mention he was knocking the ball around against ten men.

An accident waiting to happen

Before Manchester City's title challenge was dismantled once and for all at Arsenal, Roberto Mancini admitted if he were a team-mate of Mario Balotelli's, he'd probably give him a slap. So after his pantomime performance, expect Super Mario to be strapped to the arse-kicking machine between now and the start of next season, with only a brief interlude when he will be temporarily loaned to the FA so they can attach him to theirs.

Mancini has no-one but himself to blame. He bought Mario, failed to tame him, continued to play him and even persisted with him at the Emirates when the entire watching world knew he'd see red sooner or later. He should have walked for his attempt to spike Alex Song's knee cap on the end of his studs in the first half, then blundered round the field like an extra in Night of the Living Dead for the rest of the match.

In the end, the poisonous factions in City's camp did for them. Again. Just six minutes separated Carlos Tevez's introduction and Mario's dismissal, of such a nonsensical variety it looked like it turned Joe Hart clinically insane, as he muttered at himself, then the bench and his team-mate during a long walk of shame. Mario has played the clown all season and, once and for all, he's brought the whole circus down with him.

This is not right

It could be the monstrous error that sends Wigan down, and helps Chelsea fluke their way into fourth spot in the Premier League. A diabolical pair of decisions from an assistant linesman - Dave Bryan - who, on the evidence of this pitiful performance, would struggle to even judge who came first in the 100m sprint at the Beijing Olympics.

Branislav Ivanovic was so offside as Raul Meireles crossed he may as well have been giving Ali Al Habsi a wedgey. How the collective might of the officials' intellect failed to spot this blatant infringement only they will know. But the rest of us watching - agog - knew it was offside before Wigan's irate players had even finished slobbering the hapless lino in spittle.

As if that wasn't hard enough to swallow, Wigan then lost the game in stoppage time, to ANOTHER offside goal. By this time I can only imagine the linesman was in the recovery position on the half-way line with his fingers in his ears. But while it is impossible not to feel for Wigan, one does wonder what Gary Caldwell was doing trying to score from a counter at the back post seconds before Chelsea's winner. Perhaps that goal at Anfield really has gone to his head.

Computer says no

A triumph for Liverpool at home to Aston Villa on Saturday - they didn't lose! Not for the want of trying though, as they scraped a 1-1 draw with a side who managed the inexplicable feat of being in about as bad a form as Kenny's mob were coming into the game. But despite playing a virtual youth team, finally Big 'Eck had something to smile about.

It was an afternoon full of familiarities, as Liverpool neglected to pass to others on the field in red, ran around frantically, but aimlessly, like a seven-year-old in the playground after four pints of Fanta and concentrated most of their efforts on racking up the world woodwork record we spoke about last week.

This is the bit where I usually stick the boot into poor, out of touch Kenny, and yes he warbled on about penalties and "integrity" again (like his club still had some), but it was his opposite number that pricked my ears up after he said one of Villa's "IT" guys had told him a first half dive from Luis Suarez wasn't a penalty. An IT guy? What kind of operation is McLeish running when he has to rely on geeks to inform him about decisions? How would the "IT" guy know anyway, surely he was busy playing World of Warcraft?

January sales

Jonathan Howson
GettyImagesJonathan Howson grabs an equaliser for Norwich

The naysayers will tell you that the January transfer window is purely for panic buying at over-inflated prices, that there's fewer bargains around than a car boot sale at Joan Collins' house. But a quartet of players are currently proving that to be wrong, needing just a few matches to take to the Premier League more comfortably than if they were sat on a Maldives beach in a lazyboy.

For a combined total of £14 million, Papiss Cisse and Nikica Jelavic have registered 13 Premier League goals - four more than Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll have managed in over a year. In fact, the only thing Carroll and Torres can count on to be regular at the moment are their bowel movements. For once it seems Sports Direct Toon Dunlop United and West End Everton Productions Ltd have done good business. The sole worry for their fans is both will be tempted to cash in in the summer.

This flush of astute purchasing hasn't just been restricted to strikers either, as Swansea have unearthed a genuine gem in the man whose name sounds like an Indian ice cream - Gylfi Sigurdsson. But if Paul Lambert is to be believed, the finest of them all is Johnny Howson, the former Leeds captain, who the Scot said reminds him of Barca's great Andres Iniesta after his passing display against Everton on Saturday. No pressure then, Johnny.