Bale defends himself after being booked for diving

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SUNDERLAND, England (AP) -- Tottenham winger Gareth Bale was forced to defend himself after being given a yellow card for diving for the third time this season, saying referees are booking him for "no reason."

The pacy Wales international has picked up a reputation for being a diver and he was cautioned for going to ground too easily in Tottenham's 2-1 win over Sunderland in the Premier League on Saturday.

"I've been clipped and booked for no reason again," Bale said. "There's nothing I can do, the referees need to look a bit closer. People think I'm diving when there's contact."

Footage showed Sunderland defender Craig Gardner put his arm across Bale, whose knees buckled as he fell theatrically in the penalty area in the 81st minute.

It's the fifth time Bale has been booked for diving over the past two seasons -- more than any other player in the league -- and he was booed off by Sunderland fans when substituted just before the final whistle.

"If there's contact, what do you want me to do -- hit my head on the floor?" Bale said. "I have to put my hands down to protect myself. If people kick me, I'm going to go down. It doesn't bother me, people keep saying I'm diving but it doesn't bother me whatsoever."

Bale will now miss Tuesday's match against Reading because this latest booking was his fifth of the season, incurring an automatic suspension.

That further angered Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas, who claimed his players are being "persecuted" after seeing Jermain Defoe also penalized for diving against Sunderland.

"I understand that reputations can sometimes be created on the outside through the media or situations on the pitch, but it's a bit unfair," Villas-Boas said of Bale. "We want to take (diving) out of the game, the game here is respectful with fair play, but speed is difficult for referees to analyze. It's a little bit unfair."