Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has jumped to the defence of striker Luis Suarez after Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho claimed the Uruguyan dived in an attempt to win a penalty at Stamford Bridge.
Referee Howard Webb waved away appeals for a late spot kick after match-winner Samuel Eto'o appeared to fell Suarez off the ball.
Chelsea went on to win the game 2-1 to leave Liverpool in fifth at the turn of the year, six points adrift of leaders Arsenal following successive defeats to Manchester City and Mourinho's men.
The Portuguese boss claimed Suarez performed an "acrobatic swimming pool jump" in order to win a late spot kick, forcing Rodgers to defend Liverpool's top scorer.
"It certainly wasn't that," the Liverpool boss said. "Anyone seeing the game would surely have seen that, but Luis is the easy target, isn't he? We had a spell where everyone was jumping on his back, saying he was diving.
"I thought it was a valid claim for a penalty yesterday. It certainly wasn't an acrobatic dive.
"This sort of thing is something that happens. For lots of people in the country, Luis has been an easy target. Football is all about opinions. Managers, supporters, the media -- everyone has an opinion, and I am no different.
"I will always give an honest appraisal of what I see, and I will always defend my players when they need defending.
"Luis has been a remarkable player this year. Not only has he done remarkable things, he has played in a way everyone accepts has been more mature. People have recognised his maturity and seen his behaviour has changed.
"This is the first time anyone has criticised him in that respect this season, but I repeat he can be an easy target sometimes."
Suarez has regularly been at the centre of controversy regarding incidents of diving and Rodgers believes his reputation has gone before him in the eyes of Mourinho.
However, such is the Chelsea manager's tendency to play mind games with his opponents, the Mourinho is likely attempting to stir emotions among the Liverpool ranks rather than take a genuine swipe at Suarez.