Chelsea Focus - Hazard incident and cup exit overshadow Cole-fired optimism
Another turbulent week at Chelsea appears to have marred what looked to be a new sense of stability and optimism in West London.
When news broke earlier this week about Ashley Cole signing a new contract extension to remain at the club for the 2013/14 season, things seemed to be improving at the club. One key player who seemed set to leave had decided to stay after all, and this news had all the signs of paving the way for a slightly more comfortable transition period for the Blues.
Yet since then, the three-time Premier League champions have seen one of their star midfielders sent off for an altercation with a ball boy. In the same night, they crashed out of the Capital One cup at the semi-final stage to fellow Premier League side Swansea.
Eden Hazard, the £32m Belgian international who has made a quick impact at Stamford Bridge, was the player sent off during the cup clash with the Swans. Facing a 2-0 deficit from the first leg, the tie was heading for a 0-0 draw when the ball went out of play. Hazard went to retrieve it, clashing with the ball boy in the process and was promptly sent off for kicking the 17-year-old while attempting to retrieve the ball.
The 22-year-old now faces a three game ban for violent conduct, though this can be increased “in extreme circumstances”, according to BBC Sport. Gordon Taylor, head of the Professional Footballers’ Association, claimed that the player was wrong to do what he did, but does not necessarily deserve a lengthy ban.
Taylor said: “You can't take the law into your own hands. He lost his head and had to receive a punishment. You can understand the frustration of wanting to get the ball back but his actions were unacceptable and the referee had no alternative.
“Ball boys are part and parcel of the game, to keep things moving. That didn't happen last night and the frustration erupted. I hope it's an isolated incident and we can move on. He may well miss further games although I think he'll be sorry enough so there shouldn't be anything over and above what is expected for such an offence.”
Hazard has apologized, stating that he intended to get the ball from under the ball boy, who appeared to be lying on top of it. The player also stated that he believes he kicked the ball and not the youngster, but has said sorry nonetheless for the incident.
Several top names in the game took to Twitter to air their views on the incident, and opinions seemed split. Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand and Everton veteran Phil Neville both agree with referee Chris Foy that the straight red card was the correct decision, while England legends Ian Wright and Michael Owen feel that there was poor conduct on both the part of player and the ball boy, a sentiment shared by present Chelsea incumbent Rafael Benitez after the match.
The incident overshadowed the result of the game itself, however, which sees Swansea reaching the Capital One Cup final, where they will face League Two underdogs Bradford at Wembley on February 24. The occasion will mark the first time the Welsh club have reached the final of the competition, and their first English cup final since they won the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in 2006.
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