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Revisiting Jonjo Shelvey’s red card challenge and Jonny Evans’ part

Liverpool v Manchester United - Premier League

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 23: Jonjo Shelvey of Liverpool argues with Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson after being sent off during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on September 23, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

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Among the many talking points from today’s North West Derby: Mark Halsey’s decision to dismiss Jonjo Shelvey. Anytime you reduce a team to 10 so early in the match (39th minute), it’s dramatic. More often than not, if also ends up being controversial. But when you do so in a North West Derby, you’re guaranteed to become one manager’s worst enemy.

“We could control our players’ performance but what we can’t control is decisions by the referee,” Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers said after the match. Suffice to say, he wasn’t talking about any calls that went his way.

“If Jonjo is booked or sent off for both feet leaving the ground then Jonny Evans has got to go as well,” Rodgers added, an argument many are sure to pick up in the wake of Liverpool’s result.

MORE: Drilling down on Manchester United’s win at Anfield

There’s one major problem with it, though. True, Evans went into the ball with both feet. But he wasn’t going into a man. At least, that’s what the argument will be. Track Evans’ angle from point of take off and through the ball, and there’s nobody in his path. He’s not putting anybody in danger.

The same can not be said for Shelvey. The Liverpool man wasn’t being malicious, but timing was not on his side. Evans committed to the ball first with Shelvey to his right, still running toward him. By the time Shelvey left his feet, he was putting Evans in danger. His path through the challenge necessarily involved undo risk to Evans.

That’s what dangerous plays are all about. It’s about the safety of others around you. Evans may have used the same clumsy technique that befell Shelvey, but if nobody’s at risk, his just making a poor decision to his own detriment. His choice couldn’t have hurt Shelvey. Shelvey, however, could have hurt Evans. Or himself.

U.S. men’s national team fans may note an unfortunate coincidence here. Evans is the man who went studs up into Stu Holden in March 2011. Holden needed 26 stitches to close a gash just above his right knee. He also suffered a torn ACL from which he’s never fully reutrned. Holden’s only played once in the last 18 months.