Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield has been unfairly singled out and made a "target of blame" for the disaster, his retrial has heard.
Benjamin Myers QC, defending, asked jurors to consider that he was in his role for only three weeks, as well as issues with the Sheffield stadium.
"It [was] like giving a captain a ship that is already sinking," he said.
Mr Duckenfield denies gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans, who died in a crush at the ground in 1989.
Mr Myers continued his closing speech after judge Sir Peter Openshaw told Preston Crown Court that one juror would be discharged due to a bereavement.
The trial will carry on with a jury of 10, after another juror was earlier discharged.
Mr Myers asked the jury to "approach the evidence with balance and with fairness to David Duckenfield... who has been a target of blame for this for such a long time".
He said the prosecution case was unfair because it singled out the 75-year-old retired chief superintendent and applied different standards to him.
'Lack of experience'
Mr Myers said he did what he was expected to do as match commander and "didn't breach his duty, he did what he was expected to do in difficult circumstances".
Mr Myers told the jury to consider his "lack of experience". Mr Duckenfield was promoted three weeks before the FA Cup semi-final on 15 April 1989
Mr Myers described the pens of the terrace where the fatal crush happened as "death traps".
"The scale of what happened is no indication of the scale of any shortcomings of his, because this was waiting to happen."
The court has heard Duckenfield ordered exit gates be opened after crowds built up outside the turnstiles, allowing fans to head through exit gate C and down the tunnel to the central pen where the fatal crush happened.
Mr Myers said: "Nobody foresaw a press forward relentlessly into the tunnel in the way that happened."
He also told the jury to keep in mind in that during the 1980s, violence and disorder at football matches were a "huge problem".
The trial continues.