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Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010

PREMIER REPORT

Goal celebrations by Tevez another tired act


LONDON — Was that really the best Carlos Tevez could manage?

Christopher Davies

He had obviously given the matter a lot of thought, mislead the public with pre-match promises not to celebrate if he scored which proved as genuine as false teeth and then the Manchester City striker showed himself to be someone whose brain does not match his undoubted talent as a footballer with pathetic, unfunny and unjoyous gestures.

He had said he wouldn't celebrate "out of respect" for Manchester United if he found the back of the net for City in the League Cup semifinal, first leg which he did — twice — in the 2-1 win at Eastlands.

The reality was that he celebrated in a petulant and puerile way, cupping his ears and making a "quit talking" gesture with a hand. It was boring, unoriginal and in its own way as worthy of a Football Association investigation as Gary Neville's one-finger response.

I wonder what the watching Sir Bobby Charlton made of it all.

Tevez had a tick-list of targets: Sir Alex Ferguson because he didn't keep the Argentine international at Old Trafford and Neville, United's barrack room lawyer who, surprise, surprise, agreed with his manager's decision.

Surely the act of scoring is the ultimate way of proving Ferguson and Neville wrong, so why not celebrate in the time-honored way rather than a negative, unnatural manner?

These so-called celebrations are one of the less pleasant developments of recent years, and if players think they are clever, impressive or it is the way to make a point, they probably need to look up in the dictionary how to spell cat.

There have been some memorable after-goal moments, such as the hip-wiggling Roger Milla of Cameroon or the first rock-the-baby by Brazil players at USA '94. They were fun, positive and original.

The tiresome, non-celebrations we see too often these days give the impression the players are happy to have scored mainly so they can seek what they perceive as public revenge against someone.

The sad thing is the City fans probably thought "nice one, Tev . . . stick it to those Reds."

The finger-over-the-mouth to hush opposing fans should be punished by a yellow card for unsporting behavior because it is incitement. Maybe I am old fashioned or stuck in a time warp, but what is wrong with a goal-scorer running to the teammate who has laid on the chance and then celebrating in the same way as supporters with the rest of the team?

Of his celebrations, Tevez said: "I thought Gary Neville had been disrespectful by talking about me like that. For me, to celebrate in front of him was not malicious. It was just banter. That is what the game is all about. I didn't see if he did anything back. I wear my heart on my sleeve, but I also have utmost respect for other players, especially the ones at United.

"I admit it was aimed at the Manchester United management. There is a message there but, no, it was not malicious. I respect everybody at United. The players and the manager. But these things are part of the theater of football."

Tevez's explanation is full of contradictions but at least in his own way he did not hide his delight — and rightly so — even if he has added an extra edge to next week's return at Old Trafford, as if the match needed it.

* * * * *

RAFA BENITEZ'S critics, who are just about everyone except Liverpool fans, may yet be left with not so much egg on their faces but a giant omelet.

The Spaniard's name has become "Benitez Must Go" after Liverpool's exit from the Champions League, League Cup and F.A. Cup.

Benitez Must Go's cause has not been helped by injuries to his two best players. Steven Gerrard's hamstring is expected to sideline him for another three weeks and Fernando Torres is not due back until March after knee surgery. In their absence Spurs beat Liverpool 2-0 on Wednesday to move into sixth place, one point behind Spurs who are fourth.

Crisis?

What crisis?

The race for fourth place is likely to be a photo finish between Liverpool, Spurs, Aston Villa and Manchester City, and despite the avalanche of media vitriol directed at Benitez Must Go, it is impossible to write off the Merseysiders.

All four teams have shown inconsistency and at least Liverpool can look forward to the return of their two talismen for the final push.

Maybe he will soon be referred to as just Benitez again, but there is more pressure on Liverpool to secure fourth place than its rivals because it is the minimum expectation.

Gerrard released a statement to say he had no intention of leaving, Torres has yet to give such an undertaking.

Their loyalty will be tested to breaking point if Liverpool doesn't finish fourth and qualify for the Champions League next season.

Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for theLondon Daily Telegraph.


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