Eden Hazard kicks ballboy, was Chelsea star justified? - video
Opinion split over player's actions, but Chelsea left 'humiliated' after shocking episode
SWANSEA CITY made it through to the Capital One Cup final after their 0-0 draw with Chelsea in the second leg of their semi-final on Wednesday night, but their achievement was completely overshadowed by an incident involving Chelsea's Eden Hazard, who was given a red card for kicking a ballboy.
The shocking moment came with 12 minutes to go when 17-year-old Swansea volunteer Charlie Morgan threw himself on top of the ball after it trickled out of play in an attempt to stop Chelsea retrieving it.
Hazard lost his cool and tried to kick the ball out from underneath the ballboy but appeared to make contact with the youngster, who was left clutching his ribs and rolling on the turf in apparent agony. The Chelsea man was shown a straight red card by referee Chris Hoy. He now faces a three-match ban, and the FA could choose to punish him further, although the police are not investigating the incident.
The teenager visited the Chelsea dressing room after the incident and manager Rafa Benitez said that both the teenager and Hazard had apoligised for their actions.
But the matter is yet another blot on a dismal season for Chelsea, who have surrendered the European Cup, lost their manager and seen two other players involved in damaging racism cases.
However, the media reaction to the incident has been close to hysterical and Twitter went into overdrive in the aftermath of the kick.
"Disgrace" roared The Times, "shame" cried The Guardian. The Daily Telegraph called it an "extraordinary and deeply embarrassing incident" and the Daily Mail said Hazard had "humiliated" Chelsea and dragged them "into the gutter".
Hazard may have cost £32m, said Tony Evans in the Times, but in terms of character he is "worth about 32p".
"The onus is on the FA to act. It cannot be acceptable to behave like Hazard did last night. This sort of behaviour demands similar draconian treatment. The violence of the kick demands a long ban," he wrote.
"Anyone who finds excuses for Hazard by claiming the ballboy was wasting time should be ashamed of themselves."
However, plenty of others disagreed. Rik Sharma of the Daily Mail was among them. "There are two sides to every story and Hazard is not the only party who should be criticised," he wrote, pointing out that the ballboy, the son of Swansea club director Martin Morgan, had boasted on Twitter about timewasting before the match.
"The apparent agony of his victim was laughable," he added. "Particularly when you factor in the image of two staff members carrying him off as if he were an injured footballer. He certainly reacted like one."
Ex-players on Twitter appeared to have sympathy for Hazard. "If the ball boy gives the ball straight back and does his job properly that doesn't happen," wrote BBC pundit Robbie Savage. Everton's Steven Pienaar explained: "In the heat of the moment u just want the ball".
Some went even further. Former Chelsea winger Pat Nevin told the BBC the teenager was a "disgrace" and said he too would have tried to kick the ball free, he added that Hazard's red card should be rescinded.
But it could only happen to Chelsea. The Guardian said the clash was "the latest high-profile incident to blight Chelsea's traumatic season".
According to the Telegraph "there will be a painful inquest in a season of painful inquests".
And in the Times, Evans noted: "There is rampant insanity in the game. And nowhere is it madder than in SW6... Self-awareness is not a strong point at Stamford Bridge."
Neil Ashton of the Mail wrote: "This time Chelsea must act. They must take their own action, make an example of a player who has embarrassed and humiliated the club in front of a worldwide TV audience."
He also pointed out that Chelsea even had to apologise for an official tweet sent immediately after the incident, which defended Hazard. "Frankly, the club's lack of self-discipline is alarming."