• Premier League: What They Said

Bale fumes at referee after latest diving card

ESPN staff
December 29, 2012

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After picking up a fifth booking in the past 18 months for diving, Gareth Bale was insistent that the referees are failing to pick up on clear fouls - rather than accept he has a deserved reputation for simulation among officials. He said: ""It's the same thing every time - it's the third time this season I've been clipped.

"There is nothing I can do about it - the referees have to look a bit closer. If I get contact there it is a penalty or free kick. What do you expect me to do if I there is contact and I go over - hit my head on the floor? I am not going to stop going because it is a foul.

"People can say what they want, it doesn't bother me. It's a foul and I know it myself."

Manager Andre Villas-Boas defended his charge, adding: "It's a big mistake from the ref. I understand that reputations are sometimes created from the outside and it's a bit unfair. If you see the images [Craig] Gardner doesn't focus on the ball, he goes to the player and he clips him.

"I don't think it mars the game in any way but obviously Gareth was one game away from being clean of yellow cards. I think it is extremely unfair that he will miss the Reading game by such a big mistake. It looks like persecution this time with Bale."

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill was pleased with his side's attitude despite defeat. "It was a tough game. We fought so hard to get in front and then gave it away in a two-minute spell just after half-time.

"There's been a big effort over the last few games and it has taken a lot out of the players. It is very seldom in terms of commitment that I would be unhappy with the team."

Roberto Mancini questioned the sending off of Samir Nasri as Manchester City held on to beat Norwich 4-3. The Italian said: "For me, I think that we played fantastic for 25 minutes and should have scored three or four. I don't know why (Samir was sent-off) as the linesman was there and I don't know what he saw. We saw the video both play touch heads. With 10 men it was difficult. The guys played very well. It was like at Sunderland but this time we scored. Today we showed we are there for the title."

Norwich boss Chris Hughton refused to criticise his players despite suffering a third successive defeat after going 10 games unbeaten.

"Manchester City showed why they spend the amount of money they do for the offensive players they have, but you can't be 2-0 down so early on and expect to have a good day. However, we displayed great character and certainly at 4-3 it seemed it might be going our way, but again they showed real good quality. I cannot fault the endeavour of the players we have got, so now we will look to go again."

Robin van Persie came off the bench to score a late second goal for Manchester United © PA Photos

Meanwhile substitute Robin van Persie changed the game and secured the points for Manchester United against West Brom, something Sir Alex Ferguson was happy to acknowledge: "He (Van Persie) changed the game for us. When I brought him and Paul Scholes on they settled the game down for us.

"West Brom dominated in the second half and kept pumping the ball into our box. They did very well. The ball came in and we had to head it out, and we did that better than we have done all season. We're in a good position. We're halfway there. We've a game on Tuesday away from home at Wigan and we've got a few players to freshen it up. We'll look forward to the next game and try and win it."

Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert struggled to hide his disappointment after a third successive heavy defeat - this time a 3-0 loss to Wigan. Villa have now conceded 15 goals in their last three matches after defeats to Chelsea and Tottenham.

"Everyone was positive after the Liverpool win but there is now a negativity after these three defeats. I understand that feeling but I have a belief that Aston Villa will be fine. The big disappointment is that there are a lot of experienced players out of the team. We had a decent spell in the first half when we looked like ourselves. We had a couple of half chances but in the second half there was no creativity. That was hard to take for sure."

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez was delighted after his side's 3-0 victory against fellow strugglers Villa.

"It was a really tense game before it started as both Villa and ourselves are in a similar position. We tried to play in the right way and the result was very important. We were very clinical in both boxes and defended well, keeping (Christian) Benteke quiet. He is a footballer who can make a difference at this level. We covered this threat really well and had very good concentration. At the other end I thought we had even more opportunities to score in the closing stages. The players applied themselves in a great manner to get the result.

Elsewhere, Reading grabbed a vital win against West Ham. Brian McDermott said: "I'm very pleased. We were very resilient today and we needed to be. We know what we have to do to get results in this league and we move on now and look forward to our next game against Spurs.

"We had to deal with facing a very physical side and we have kept another clean sheet. I didn't feel they had too many opportunities. Pavel took his chance very well and we've also hit the bar."

Fulham manager Martin Jol refused to blame keeper David Stockdale after his side were beaten 2-1 at home to Swansea.

"I can't blame 90 per cent of my players. They gave everything, they did everything. The only one who didn't have the best Christmas Day was my goalkeeper and he's a very good goalkeeper. I won't blame him but you can see that we gave them the two goals - simple."

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