How Mohamed Salah is getting heat in the Premier League amid 'dive' storm
Liverpool's prolific goalscorer has been involved in a regular incidents in recent weeks
Mohamed Salah is normally in the headlines for his unerring accuracy in front of goal, or gestures of kindness off the pitch, but he has been causing a stir for a different reason in recent weeks.
Liverpool's Egyptian star has been accused of diving by opposition players, pundits and fans, with the situation coming to a head during Saturday's 4-3 victory over Crystal Palace at Anfield.
Instead of talking about his two goals which helped to extend the Merseyside club's lead at the top to seven points and took Salah's Premier League tally to 50, the focus has been on whether he has been seeking an unfair advantage.
What happened that caused the outcry against Palace?
Salah was shielding the ball from Palace's Mamadou Sakho when the French defender poked a leg out and possibly connected with the side of Salah's shin. If he did touch him, contact was minimal.
There was then a moment's delay before Salah tumbled to the ground as if more significant contact had been made. This led to an angry reaction from the Palace players. Had he gone down at the moment of impact, he may have had more of a case for a penalty, though it would have been a harsh decision.
It is not the first time this has occurred then?
No, Salah losing his footing in the opposition penalty area has happened quite frequently in the past month or so. Against Newcastle on Boxing Day he won a penalty which he went on to dispatch, though the Football Association reviewed the incident, in which he tumbled after a slight tug from Paul Dummett, after the match.
The governing body decided his fall did not merit "deception of a match official", and so he avoided a two-match ban.
Salah also won a penalty against Brighton and Hove Albion on January 12 after coming into contact with Pascal Gross, and he won another against Arsenal on December 29 after a touch from behind from Sokratis as he closed in on goal.
What are they saying about his penalty streak?
Manager Jurgen Klopp spoke out in Salah's defence after the Arsenal game, saying: "Do we need blood for a proper penalty? I think no. In that moment, if you don't touch Mo and he makes the next step and shoots - and we know he's pretty good at that - these are the situations.
"I haven't seen it back (with Sokratis) and I have no clue about what happened around it but the ref really was close to it. We don't have divers and that was not a dive. The other one is not a dive. The ref decides it."
Teammate Andrew Robertson meanwhile defended Salah after the Brighton game.
"Every time it happens, we go back, everyone looks at the video, and you go, 'Well, it's not a dive'."
"He is not that sort of player, so how many times is it going to happen? I was at the edge of the box and it was a stonewaller. If people are starting to say Mo has gone down easily, it's not fair.
"The one against Arsenal, especially, he got clipped three times. They still appealed. It's a bit of desperation."
Pundits in the UK were quick to criticise Salah on Saturday for what they felt was an instance of simulation. Match of the Day's Garth Crooks, a former player with Tottenham Hotspur, and Kevin Kilbane, who won 110 international caps for the Republic of Ireland, were unimpressed.
Is he being harshly treated?
The reason it is creating such a stir is due to the football culture in the UK, where diving is highly frowned upon compared to other leading European nations such as Spain and Italy. Players are expected to stay on their feet and the majority of fans would rather see their team win without the aid of deceiving the referee, whereas in other countries players are encouraged to go to ground as referees allow less physical contact.
That's not to say it doesn't happen in England, and Salah is not alone in coming under the spotlight.
Harry Kane, the England strker, was booked for diving against Wolverhampton Wanderers on December 29 - the day he was made an MBE - and came under scrutiny during Tottenham's victory over Chelsea in the League Cup on Janaury 8 when he appeared to start falling before goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga touched him.
Salah has been in the Premier League long enough to know what is allowed and what is not and in his defence he moves at such a pace that any slight knock can launch him out of his stride.
Some of the recent examples however have come when he has not been running at full tilt and while there may have been no repercussions if he was in Serie A or La Liga, England is less forgiving, and he may now find penalty decisions more difficult to come by as referees become aware of his reputation.
Neymar experienced a backlash during last summer's World Cup when his theatrics led to an outpouring of social media memes and ridicule. That ended up overshadowing his talent and will stick long on the memory.
Hopefully Klopp will have had a word with his squad and will ensure that if they win the Premier League title this season, they will do so in the right manner.
Published: January 20, 2019 12:22 PM