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Chelsea reputation takes a kicking

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Chelsea's Eden Hazard kicks ballboy

Chelsea midfielder shown a red card after apparently kicking a ballboy who was lying on the match ball.

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EDEN HAZARD has apologised after his extraordinary dismissal for kicking a ballboy during Chelsea's League Cup semi-final second leg at Swansea City.

Wednesday's match finished 0-0, giving Swansea a 2-0 aggregate victory but the game was overshadowed by an incident 10 minutes from full-time when Hazard was sent off for an altercation with a ballboy.

The Belgian international seemed to get annoyed when the boy failed to return the ball promptly after it went out of play for a Swansea goal kick. After a tussle, the youngster ended up lying on top of the ball and Hazard kicked him as he tried to retrieve the ball from underneath.

Down and out ... a ballboy recovers on the ground at the side of the pitch after Chelsea's Eden Hazard kicked the youngster in a scrap for the ball.

Down and out ... a ballboy recovers on the ground at the side of the pitch after Chelsea's Eden Hazard kicked the youngster in a scrap for the ball. Photo: Getty Images

Following a brief delay, during which the grimacing boy was attended to by Chelsea's players, referee Chris Foy showed Hazard a straight red card.

''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. I apologise,'' Hazard told Chelsea TV.

''The ballboy came in the changing room and we had a quick chat and I apologised and the boy apologised as well, and it is over - sorry.''

South Wales police have announced they will investigate the incident but Swansea said the boy had told police he did not want to press charges.

''The police have interviewed the boy and his father and there are no charges going to be pressed. As far as they are concerned, that is the matter closed,'' a Swansea spokesman said. ''The ballboy has been into the Chelsea dressing room after the game and shaken hands with Eden Hazard. The likes of John Terry and Frank Lampard were exemplary in their behaviour in welcoming him into the dressing room.

''Chelsea asked if he could come in and our kit lady took him in and they shook hands - he is fine. As far as we are concerned, the matter is closed. He has been a ballboy here for six years with no incidents here at the stadium.''

Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez initially said the ballboy was ''wasting time'' but he reacted angrily to claims he had condoned Hazard's behaviour.

''I do not know what you expect from me,'' he told reporters. ''Do you think we are not disappointed with the situation, that we do not regret what happened? Do you think they have not apologised? We will deal with this internally. We will analyse and wait to see if there is any action from the FA.''

Chelsea at first reacted by questioning Foy's decision to dismiss Hazard, writing on the club's official Twitter account: ''Has football gone mad? Hazard is sent off for kicking the ball under a ball boy attempting to smother the ball rather than return it.'' However, they subsequently issued an apology to their 1.8 million followers.

Swansea manager Michael Laudrup dismissed suggestions the club had instructed its ballboys to waste time by holding onto the ball when it went out of play.

''No, definitely not. He was pushed and he was on top of the ball,'' he said. ''I can understand you're frustrated when you're behind and your pulse is going but there are things you should never do.''

However, a pre-match tweet from the ball boy involved, Charlie Morgan, seemed to declare his intention to waste time. ''The king of all ball boys is back making his final appearance #needed #for #timewasting,'' Morgan tweeted.

Swansea will face fourth-tier Bradford City in the final at Wembley on February 24.

AFP

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