Premier League - Is Bale really a diver? Or is he being picked on?

Tottenham star Gareth Bale has pleaded with referees and fans to give him a break after being booked for diving once again at Sunderland.

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Premier League - Is Bale really a diver? Or is he being picked on?
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Are refs picking on Bale?

The 23-year-old Welshman was yellow-carded nine minutes from time in his side's 2-1 victory at the Stadium of Light after going down under Craig Gardner's challenge - his fourth yellow card of the season for simulating a foul.

Referee Martin Atkinson was quick to rule that he had gone to ground unprompted, but replays suggested there had been contact and Bale later pleaded his innocence.

"It's the same thing every time," he said. "It's the third time this season I've been clipped. There is nothing I can do about it - the referees have to look a bit closer.

"If I get contact there, it is a penalty or free-kick."

Pundits and fans have been queuing up all season to take pot shots at Bale over his habit of going to ground too easily.

But Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas was quick to leap to the defence of his player, and while admitting some of his previous booking have been warranted, insisted he had been hard done to on Wearside.

Villas-Boas said: "It's difficult for the referees, there's no question about it, but today was a big mistake.

"Sometimes we have to give a little bit of comfort and credit to the player because he is being chased now and it's a little bit unfair what he is going through, particularly because he misses a game when he was going to be the clear-out for the yellow cards.

"It's just a consequence of his pace, his ability his skill. People don't want to stop him in various different ways, sometimes they do it in a proper way, sometimes they have to foul. I think he understands, as I was saying, that it's difficult for the refs to judge, but today was a mistake and the team is penalised for the game against Reading."

Former top flight referee Jeff Winter disagrees, telling The Sun that "Bale is picking up a reputation now. He claims he is trying to get out of the way but against Aston Villa earlier this season he clearly dived."

But Spurs legend Gary Mabutt insisted that Bale is hard done by, arguing that "at the pace Gareth is running at, any touch means he is going to have to adjust his movement. Nobody wants to see cheating and Gareth has been dumbfounded by it all."

What do you think? Is Bale right to go to ground when there is any contact? Or should he try harder to stay on his feet and thereby shake off his reputation as a cheat? Watch the video above (UK users only) and have your say in the comments box below.

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