London - Gareth Bale says he does not deserve his reputation as a diver, despite being shown his fifth yellow card for simulation in 16 months in Tottenham Hotspur's 2-1 win at Sunderland on Saturday.
Bale was one of the outstanding players on show at the Stadium of Light but he was booked by referee Martin Atkinson in the 81st minute after going down under a challenge from Sunderland's Craig Gardner.
His every touch thereafter was jeered by the home fans but the Welshman, who scored his first Premier League hat-trick against Aston Villa on Wednesday, said the referee had made a mistake.
It was the third time Bale has been booked for diving this season and means he will miss his side's home game with Reading on New Year's Day due to suspension after accumulating five yellow cards.
"That's the third time now I've been clipped and booked for no reason again," said Bale.
"There's nothing I can do - the referees need to look a bit closer. People think I'm diving when there's contact.
"If there's contact, it's a penalty or free-kick, there's nothing I can do. If there's contact, what do you want me to do - hit my head on the floor?
"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. It's a foul and I know it myself."
Television replays showed that Gardner's knee made contact with Bale's right leg as the former Southampton player sped past him into the Sunderland area, but the Wales international went down in theatrical fashion.
Bale has been shown five yellow cards for diving since the start of the 2011-12 season.
No other player has more than two cautions for the same offence in that time, but Spurs coach Andre Villas-Boas believes the 23-year-old is being unfairly singled out.
"It was a big mistake from the referee," he said.
"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.
"If you see the images, Gardner is not even focusing on the ball - he goes in and clips him.
"It doesn't mar the win, but Gareth was one game from being clean from yellow cards and it's extremely unfair that he misses Reading because of such a big mistake."