Chelsea star sent off for kicking ballboy in ribs
Chelsea winger Eden Hazard was sent off in a League Cup semifinal against Swansea on Wednesday for kicking a ballboy in the ribs while attempting to retrieve the ball.
The Belgium international was spoken to by police after kicking at the 17-year-old ballboy, who appeared to be refusing to hand over the ball to Hazard after it had rolled out of play. Swansea said police wouldn't be pressing any charges, and Hazard and the ballboy apologized to each other in the Chelsea dressing room.
''The boy put his whole body onto the ball and I was just trying to kick the ball and I think I kicked the ball and not the boy,'' Hazard said. ''I apologize. The ball boy came in the changing room and we had a quick chat and I apologized and the boy apologized as well, and it is over. Sorry.''
Hazard, one of the Premier League's most high-profile players after joining Chelsea from Lille for 32 million pounds ($51 million) last summer, could still be charged by England's Football Association.
''It was an unfortunate incident that both parties regret being involved in,'' Swansea said in a statement.
The incident occurred in the 79th minute of the match at Liberty Stadium, which finished 0-0. Swansea advanced 2-0 on aggregate, setting up an unlikely final against fourth-tier Bradford City at Wembley Stadium on Feb. 24. It will be the first major final in Swansea's 100-year history.
With Chelsea needing two goals to force extra time, the ball bounced off an advertising board behind the goal line in the 79th minute and the ballboy, wearing a Swansea tracksuit, slowly walked over to pick it up.
Hazard ran up to reclaim the ball and the teen fell over, lying face down with the ball under him. Hazard, thinking the ballboy was trying to waste time to aid his team, attempted to pull the ball free and then kicked at it under the youth.
After Hazard got the ball free, he picked it up and jogged back onto the field. The ballboy, who has worked for Swansea for six years, rolled onto his back and clutched the right side of his ribs as he was attended to.
Hazard was shown a straight red card by referee Chris Foy.
Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez said the ballboy and Hazard had apologized to each other.
''They both recognize there was a mistake,'' Benitez said. ''Hazard was frustrated and tried to get the ball. He was kicking the ball and getting the ball.''
On the club's official Twitter feed, Chelsea said football had ''gone mad.''
''Hazard is sent off for kicking the ball under a ball boy attempting to smother the ball rather than return it,'' Chelsea's tweet read.
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup said Hazard would regret his actions.
''The ballboy should have let the ball go, but he was pushed first and then he kicks him,'' Laudrup said. ''As a player, when you are behind, your pulse is very high and sometimes you say and do things. You overreact. But there are some things you cannot do.''