Football is wrapped pretty tightly within an excuse culture. Partisanship naturally means that supporters will always blame an official or an opponent for something that has negatively effected their team, but there are times when it’s right for them to point an accusatory finger at one of their own.
Hull were excellent in the first-half of their game with Tottenham today. They played with far more cohesion, purpose and confidence than their opponents and they were fully deserving of their half-time lead - in fact, neither Mauricio Pochettino, the Spurs players, nor the traveling supporters could really have complained had the deficit been greater.
Then, Gaston Ramirez…
Making his first start for his loan club, Ramirez kicked-out at Jan Vertonghen after a minor tangle and was subsequently sent-off. It was a moment that obviously changed the game and, arguably, it was a moment that cost Hull victory.
Post-game, Steve Bruce acknowledged that Ramirez had reacted foolishly but questioned Vertonghen’s role in the incident and essentially claimed that the defender had tried to get the Uruguayan sent-off.
From the angles which are currently available, that seems like a very harsh assessment. Vertonghen did fall in quite a bizarre way, but not in a manner that suggested any exaggeration or attempt to make the contact look more serious than it was. In fact, once on the floor, the Belgian doesn’t writhe in pain or feign any sort of faux-agony.
Contesting whether Ramirez’s reaction warranted a red card is completely justified, because it did seem like an overly-harsh response, but to question Vertonghen’s professionalism seemed like Bruce’s attempt to mitigate his own player’s stupidity.
If this had been similar to James Tomkins’ cringeworthy behaviour at Goodison Park yesterday, then fine, but this wasn’t on anything like the same scale.
We know that, in the Premier League, there are more than a few referees and assistants who rather enjoy the limelight and who actively try to make themselves the story so, with that in mind, players have to avoid giving those officials the opportunity to make ‘big’ decisions.
Ramirez spectacularly failed to avoid that trap. If a player does anything remotely violent or irregular and he does it that close to one of the officials, he is asking to be sent off - and, if you are that player and your side is sitting on a one-nil lead against a dangerous opponent, you deserve everything you get in return for your stupidity.
Hull have every right to feel cheated, disappointed and aggrieved, but the focus of all of that disenchantment should be on their own player.
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