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Rob Styles humiliated for penalty blunder

Rob Styles humiliated for penalty blunder

By Oliver Brown
Last Updated: 1:57am BST 21/08/2007

Referee Rob Styles was forced into a humiliating public climbdown yesterday as he apologised to Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez for wrongly awarding Chelsea a penalty at Anfield on Sunday.

The Hampshire official has also been stripped of a top-flight game this weekend, with the Premier League making him the most public example of their resolve that referees should answer for their mistakes.

Rob  Styles humiliated for penalty blunder
Foul up: Liverpool's Steve Finnan is penalised by referee Rob Styles

Styles judged that Steve Finnan had fouled Florent Malouda in the 62nd minute of Liverpool's 1-1 draw with Chelsea, but while television replays showed there had been no illegal contact, Frank Lampard equalised from the resulting penalty.

Conceding the gravity of his error, Styles said: "In mistakenly awarding a penalty, I accept that I may have affected the result of the match and for that I apologise."

Although he had shown no such contrition immediately after the game, the unsympathetic response of referees' chief Keith Hackett led Styles to try to appease Benitez, who had described the penalty decision as "unbelievable".

Hackett explained: "I have spoken to Rob, he has looked at the video, and obviously he is extremely disappointed. He has admitted he got it wrong. I tried to make contact and left a message with Benitez. It is wrong, and therefore Rob will not be officiating this weekend."

Styles found himself increasingly under attack last night by colleagues and commentators after one of the most shambolic displays by a Premier League referee in recent memory. When booking John Terry in the second half, he appeared to raise a second yellow card to Michael Essien, with the Chelsea captain standing nowhere near.

Hackett insisted this had been an "administrative error", but former referee Graham Poll said: "At the first look I definitely thought he had booked Essien a second time. He had just given a penalty and you have a gut feeling as a referee that you might have made a mistake."

On Styles' punishment for his misguided penalty call, Poll added: "It was a big mistake. I'd be happy to have a weekend off to lick my wounds and regain my confidence."

The title race could be affected by the decision, which denied Liverpool two potential points and was described by The Daily Telegraph's Alan Hansen as "beyond belief".

Styles was not the only figure to be dropped from the next round of games, as the Premier League also removed Ian Gosling, who incorrectly ruled out David Healy's equaliser for Fulham against Middlesbrough on Saturday when the ball had clearly crossed the line.


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