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Liverpool forward faces possible grilling over 'joke' Twitter pic

Babel gobs off about ref after tweeting pic of Webb in Man U shirt

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Liverpool forward Ryan Babel faces probable disciplinary action after reacting to the Merseyside club's predictable defeat at Old Trafford on Sunday by posting on his Twitter page a satirical mocked up picture of match ref Howard Webb in a Man United shirt.

Webb, unpopular in Spain as well as the Red half of Merseyside for his handling of various games, including last year's World Cup Final, awarded a first-minute penalty after adjudging a foul against Dimitar Berbatov. While that decision might have gone either way, a straight red card against Steven Gerrard for a two-footed lunge against Michael Carrick was far more clear cut, unless you're a Liverpool fan.

Babel's reaction after the game included posting a photoshopped image of Webb together with the message: "And they call him one of the best referees? That's a joke."

The Dutch forward later apologised for earlier update. "Sorry Howard Webb. My apology if they take my posted pic seriously. This is just an emotional reaction after losing an important game," he said. However this apology still leaves open the possibility of a charge of accusing a referee of bias.

An FA spokesman told The Guardian that it was investigating the incident.

The third-round tie marked the return of Kenny Dalglish to manage the club he graced as a player and led to its last league title, way back in 1990. Dalglish's son, Paul, also posted a photoshopped image of Webb, again in a Man United shirt but this time depicted side by side with Sir Alex Ferguson. Dalglish junior said: "Howard Webb MBE. Manc of the Busby Era. I am not normally bitter, as you know, but it is different rules against them."

Social networking and professional sports are uncomfortable bedfellows at times. While golfers and tennis stars, individuals who don't have to answer to team managers, can use the medium to keep fans in touch without much bother, the same doesn't go for the more quick-tempered team players.

For example, cricketer Kevin Pietersen got into trouble after venting his disappointment on Twitter at getting dropped from the England squad for one day internationals against Pakistan last summer following a run of poor form. Mindful of the possibility (indeed likelihood) of players gobbing off, Manchester United imposed a blanket ban preventing players from using social networking sites last year. ®

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