Mark Hughes criticized Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling for diving to win a decisive penalty during Stoke City’s 5-3 defeat to Brendan Rodgers’ men at the Britannia Stadium on Sunday. Early in the second half, with the score tied 2-2, Sterling went down in the area after being brushed by Stoke defender Marc Wilson; Reds’ captain Steven Gerrard buried the resulting penalty.
"Raheem Sterling went down very easily in our opinion and the referee bought it," Hughes said after the game. "The reaction of the player himself, immediately looking towards the referee, is always a giveaway from my point of view. The Liverpool fans also reacted to it and the referee has bought it. When players go down in the box referees are going to have difficult decisions but whether that penalty would have been given in the other box in front of our own fans, I'm not too sure.” He added: "I think it's a poor decision and given that we'd come back from 2-0 down the momentum was with us and we were in the ascendancy but the game has been taken away from us again. I felt if we could get our noses in front, it could have been a different game. The penalty decision was key as it swung it back to them."
Meanwhile, Liverpool coach Rodgers admitted the penalty was “soft,” but that labeling Sterling a diver is too harsh. "Goodness me, he is a young boy who gets kicked left, right and center and we got good fortune,” he said. “The defender doesn't make contact with the ball but does the man and Raheem is running at such speed. He is not that type. I thought it was soft. I'd call that a ‘Spanish penalty,' one where the attacker goes into the defender – the defender doesn't get the ball – but the contact puts him over."