Manchester United's manager fumes over Ronaldo dive row

Society Materials 4 December 2007 06:46 (UTC +04:00)

( AFP ) - Sir Alex Ferguson has accused Fulham goalkeeper Antti Niemi of 'conning' referee Rob Styles after two-goal Cristiano Ronaldo was booked for diving with a hat-trick at his mercy during Manchester United's 2-0 win at Old Trafford.

Ronaldo, who had sealed victory for United with a first-half volley and second-half header, looked on course for his first United hat-trick when he bore down on Niemi with eleven minutes left to play.

But the Portuguese forward fell to the ground following a rash challenge by the Fulham goalkeeper and a penalty seemed inevitable -- until referee Rob Styles waved away the penalty appeals and booked Ronaldo for diving.

An angry Ferguson said: "The penalty incident is a result of a perceived idea of the referee that Ronaldo dives, there is no question of that.

"But in fairness to the referee in this case, the goalkeeper conned the referee. Without question, the goalkeeper got Ronaldo booked. His reaction immediately suggested that Ronaldo had dived, but it was the wrong decision.

"Why would he dive? He is through, has gone round the goalkeeper and is on a hat-trick, so there is no reason to dive. It was unbelievable. He was one-on-one with the keeper and he was running at full pelt and he caught him with both hands. It was unfair that Ronaldo got booked for it.

"Ronaldo is paying for his reputation, but he is nothing like that now. He is a mature and magnificent footballer and he has been unfairly treated."

Ronaldo, who earned a reputation in his early days at United as a player who would often go to ground too easily, admitted he was surprised by Styles's decision to book him and refuse the shouts for the penalty.

Speaking after the Monday night clash, he said: "I think it was a penalty. The goalkeeper knows he touched me, but the referee made a decision and I need to respect that.

"The referee was doing his job and I was doing mine. If he sees the replay, he sees that I jumped and that he touched me and in my opinion it is a penalty."

With Niemi coming under fire from Ferguson for appearing to brandish an imaginary card at Styles in an effort to get Ronaldo booked, Fulham manager Lawrie Sanchez was quick to defend his goalkeeper, despite admitting that he expected the referee to award a penalty.

"Antti was trying to tell the referee he had not touched Ronaldo -- and he hadn't," said Sanchez.

"Ronaldo jumped and sprawled. Had he jumped and gone the other side he could quite easily have scored, but he sprawled and that's why he got the booking," said the Fulham manager.

"Ronaldo had a good claim for the penalty, though. The referee thought that he dived over the keeper, but I think we were fortunate to get away with it."

Victory for United took them back into second spot, three points behind leaders Arsenal, but Ferguson insisted that his team can play better and be more clinical in front of goal.

He said: "It was a comfortable 2-0 even though Fulham had a lot of possession, but there were to many chances missed and we were too charitable in that respect.

"When we put our foot on the gas, it looked as though we could score at any time. Fulham did well keeping the ball and their strikers were lively with their ability in the air, but they didn't really threaten us."