STEVE Bruce bit his lip and took his medicine after seeing his side lose out to Liverpool in controversial circumstances yesterday.
He has seen angry public criticism earning him FA charges already during his time at Sunderland and had no desire to invite another fine.
Besides, the ebb and flow of the game over the course of the 90 minutes had proved to him that, overall, Liverpool were the better side on the day.
But below the surface he was still seething at the thought that not only should a refereeing decision have been so pivotal to the outcome of the game – the award of Liverpool’s penalty after John Mensah’s foul on Jay Spearing just outside the box – but that the referee should originally have got the decision right, only to over-rule himself in place of a linesman who was less well-placed.
Bruce was fuming at the incident.
“For me, the big decision was the first goal,” he sighed.
“I’ve got no complaints about the final result, but that was a really big, key decision and a strange one, too – for someone 80 yards away to over-rule the referee and get it wrong.
“What I couldn’t understand was that the referee gave it correctly from 10 yards away and even stood on the right spot, where the turf marks were from the challenge for the free-kick – only to have a guy 80 yards away to make a blatant error and give it the wrong way!
“He shouldn’t have got involved.”
Sunderland certainly made their feelings known to the officials after the game and Bruce felt it was done so effectively that he believed the officials and, in particular, errant linesman Billy Smallwood would not repeat the error.
The manager said: “The linesman is the one who made the mistake and I just said to him that, in future, I hope he wouldn’t get involved and that he would learn from it.
“Hopefully he’ll never get involved with an incident like that ever again and why should he? It’s impossible for him to be 100 per cent sure from that distance.
“Whether that proves to be the case or not, it’s a bit late for us now, though – it’s happened.
“All in all, it was one of those afternoons when you could say it was never going to be our day.
“Anything that could have gone wrong seemed to go wrong from the injuries we picked up to the decision going so badly against us in the 32nd minute.
“Up until that point, there was nothing in it between the two teams, but the penalty killed us.
“It just got worse for us from there and, in the second half, we had Anton Ferdinand needing to come off and Phil Bardsley needing to come off, but we already knew Danny Welbeck had to come off on the hour, so we had to leave the full-backs on.
“In the end, we were playing with eight players and, if I’m honest, we could easily have had a horror afternoon.”