LONDON: Eden Hazard may be lost to Chelsea for longer than the three-game suspension imposed automatically for ‘violent conduct’ after he was shown the first red card of his career for kicking a ballboy.
The Belgium forward lost his temper with 17-year-old Charlie Morgan when the ballboy fell on the ball to delay the return with Chelsea heading out of the League Cup semi-finals at Swansea last midweek.
Hazard and Morgan apologised to each other over the incident which prompted controversy with ex-Chelsea winger Pat Nevin, among others, protesting that Hazard was trying only to retrieve the ball and the teenager was entirely to blame.
This argument was lost on both referee Chris Foy and the Football Association. Chelsea’s facility for incurring PR own goals was extended by the FA’s view that three matches is a “clearly insufficient” punishment.
Hazard’s offence has been referred to an independent commission which will decide later this week whether to add extra games to the ban.
The player missed yesterday’s FA Cup against west London neighbours Brentford and will also be absent from the Premier League fixtures away to Reading on Wednesday and Newcastle United on Saturday.
Manager Rafael Benítez already had enough selection problems. Midfielder Oriol Romeu is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, David Luiz has a calf injury while Mikel John Obi and Victor Moses are away with Nigeria at the African Nations Cup.
The FA of Wales has told Swansea that Morgan must not be among the ballboys for next month’s game against Austria in the Liberty Stadium.
Ballboys rarely raise controversy.
Minor concern once arose at Stoke where ballboys hand Rory Delap a towel to dry the ball before his long throw-ins. After complaints to the Premier League, the club agreed to offer towels to opponents as well.
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