Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas has claimed Gareth Bale has been persecuted in recent weeks after he was again booked for simulation during his side’s 2-1 win over Sunderland.
Bale was cautioned for diving – the third time he has been penalised for such an offence this season – despite contact from Craig Gardner meaning he is suspended from his side’s New Year’s Day match against Reading.
"It's a big mistake from the referee," the 35-year-old insisted to Sky Sports.
"I understand that reputations are created from the outside - from the media - and it's a bit unfair. If you see the images, Gardner focuses not on the ball but the player. It's extremely unfair that he misses the Reading game for such a big mistake.
"If I'm not wrong, we had the same situation with Defoe in the first half and... it looks like persecution [against Bale].
"Players have a responsibility and we have to take that into consideration. We want to take it out of the game. I think our game is respectful and there is fair play. But with the speed they go and then there is contact it is a difficult one for the referee. To see Gareth punished again is a little bit unfair.
"We have to let it go. We lose him for the Reading game, we just recover the boys and continue a magnificent run of form and results."
The winger also criticised the referee's decision adding that he feels as though he has been unfairly targeted in recent weeks.
"It's the same thing every time," he added. "It's the third time now this season I've been clipped and I've got booked for no reason again.
"It's just one of those things. There's nothing I can do about it, the referees just need to look a bit closer I think. It's not something I'm doing, it's people thinking I'm diving where there's actually contact, so at the end of the day if I'm getting contact it's a penalty or a free kick so I can't do anything about that.
"If there's contact I fall over, what do you expect me to do? Hit my head on the floor? I've got to put my hands down and protect myself. If people are kicking me I'm not going to stop going over because it's a foul.
"It doesn't bother me. People can keep saying what they want, it doesn't bother me whatsoever. At the end of the day, it's a foul and I know that myself."