When asked about referee Lee Mason's performance following the 2-0 defeat at Fratton Park earlier this season Rafa sarcastically replied, "He was perfect." To every follow up question about the referee the Boss simply repeated the statement, "He was perfect." It was a clever tactic from the Spaniard. He clearly showed his disgust at the referee's display without saying anything that the FA could charge him for. Normally, the FA discipline manager's who criticise the performance of a referee, however they couldn't charge Benitez for saying that the referee was "perfect", even if the comment was laced with excellent sarcasm.
Ironically, these comments came after one of Lee Mason's better matches while refereeing a game involving Liverpool. Liverpool had just deservedly lost 2-0 to Portsmouth. Javier Mascherano had been sent off towards the end of the first half because of a reckless tackle. It could be argued that Mascherano only deserved a yellow card as it was his first offense, however it was an awful tackle and he was rightly given his marching orders. For once, Lee Mason had made the correct decision.
However, Mr Mason was inconsistent during the match as he failed to penalise the centre back pairing of Younes Kaboul and Tal Ben Haim for persistently fouling a frustrated Fernando Torres. Also, he continually ignored the vicious Michael Brown, who threw in several dangerous challanges that warranted at least a yellow card.
This under par performance came only 6 Premier League games after Mason had had a shocker at Craven Cottage, home of Fulham FC. Liverpool lost 3-1 and had both Philip Degen and Jamie Carragher wrongly sent off, within 120 seconds of each other. Degen was given his marching orders after a late challenge on Clint Dempsey that deserved a yellow card. It was most certainly not an offence worthy of a straight red.
That was after 79 minutes, when Liverpool were trailing 2-1. However, we know that the Reds have a tendency to grab late goals and quite possibly could have scored a late equaliser if it wasn't for this sending off. Only 2 minutes later Carragher was sent off for a challenge on Bobby Zamora, in which he clearly got the ball. Even Zamora admitted afterwards that the scouser didn't deserve the red card that Mason ridiculously gave him. The Reds went on to concede another goal, losing the game 3-1.
This weekend Mason took charge of his third Liverpool game this season, as the Reds travelled to the Britannia Stadium to face Stoke City. Mason made three shocking decisions that denied Liverpool what would have been a crucial three points. Firstly, he showed Lucas a yellow card for diving when everyone in the ground (and watching on the tele) could clearly see that the Brazilian midfielder had been sliced down by Danny Higginbotham. Then, with 2 minutes left, he awarded the home side a corner, when the shot from Stoke striker Ricardo Fuller had clearly gone behind for a goal kick. From the resulting corner Robert Huth tapped home to break Red hearts.
Deep into injury time Fabio Aurelio swung a cross in from the left wing and Dirk Kuyt could only hit the post with his diving header. However, Lucas (once again) had been pushed over in the box as he tried to get his head to the ball. Lee Mason missed the incident and failed to award Liverpool a second stonewall penalty. It capped off a shocking performance from the referee.
It seems as if when your luck is down, absolutely nothing goes your way. Either that or Lee Mason is refereeing once again.