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First and foremost: I like Javier Mascherano.

He is one of those players who scrape and scrap and get under an opponent’s skin. He is tough as nails and never backs down from a challenge. You want him on your team, but you don’t want to play against him.

Needless to say he also got under the skin of referee Steve Bennett when Liverpool and Manchester United faced off over the weekend. Mascherano earned his second yellow card of the match, halfway through the contest, for dissent. The resulting red card to send him to the showers has raised speculation over the decision and its impact on the game.

I’m going to digress from whether or not Mascherano’s presence would have prevented United from having its way with a Liverpool side that can’t find its way out of a paper sack in league play. I want to take time to applaud Bennett for his decision because it was not an easy one.

See, the Football Association is trying to crack down on the hissy fits these millionaire footballers are throwing every time a decision does not go their way. They huff and puff and cause a big stir while in the recent past referees have stood by taking the abuse like one of Michael Vick’s pit bulls.

Now referees have been told to come down harsher on player dissent. It not only sends a message to the cry babies to shut up, but it makes the players and the game look better. Also, it sets a better example for every 10-year-old out there admiring a player of Mascherano’s skill.

Maybe the decision on Mascherano was harsh, but it was needed. After Ashley Cole’s act of petulance for his horror tackle on Tottenham Hotspurs’ Alan Hutton earlier in the week, and resulting argument and tirade when shown a yellow when a red was mightily needed, a message needed to be sent to the players in the Premier League.

Perhaps Mascherano’s red card was the fallout from the buildup of abuse referees have taken, but it was a step in the right direction.


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