Chelsea today are left with serious headache after being knocked out of the Capital One Cup to Premier League over-achievers Swansea. The controversy however surrounds the sending off of Chelsea starlet Eden Hazard for what appeared to be kicking a ball boy interferring with play.
Scroll to the bottom for a video of the incident.
As a United fan I would love nothing more than to bash Chelsea and in particular Hazard who snubbed United to join London rivals Chelsea in May 2012. Hazard has shown an extremely promising start for Chelsea and although Chelsea's fortunes have changed this season Hazard has been one of the few to shine.
Last night Chelsea sought to overturn the upset of their first leg defeat to Swansea in order to secure a place in the final of the Capital One Cup. 12 minutes to go a cocky 17 year old ball-boy decided to hold the play up by shielding the ball from Hazard after it went out play. Hazard's attempt to round the boy and collect the ball saw him theatrically throw himself to the floor atop the ball. Hazard proceeded to kick the ball from under the 'boy' leaving the chap rolling on the floor in 'evident' theatrical pain. Referee Chris Foy was left with no option but to dismiss the Belgian leaving Chelsea with little chance to rescue the game.
Much of the press has taken this incident out of context and victimising the chap who sought to slow up the play. On closer examination of the facts the story is a different matter.
Ball boy/manager/king of all ball-boys?
So who is this valiant chap who single handedly took Swansea, and Chelsea's, fate into his own hands. 17-year-old Charlie Morgan is the son of a director at Swansea City FC and has held the position as ball boy for 6 years at the club. The first thing that springs to mind is why is a 17 year old playing ball-boy? Is it a new type of career move for those priviledged enough to have a parent in the club's hierarchy?
Even before the game Morgan was boasting his time wasting potential for the game from his twitter account:
Little needs to be said then about Morgan's intentions to stop Hazard retrieving the ball.
Apologies, Apologies, Apologies...
Since the incident Hazard has been extremely apologetic toward the boy and the press. Hazard said to 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."
"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.
Chelsea manager Rafa Benetiez was a little less apologetic speaking after the game: "The boy knows he was wasting time," he said. "Hazard was frustrated and trying to get the ball back.
"We can not change the situation. We are disappointed because we lost a player. The best thing for us is to move forward."
There has been a huge reaction online. Parcularly from the Swansea fans in online forums. Here a few of the highlights from professionals on Twitter.
Rio Ferdinand: "I'm not the authorities but in my eyes it's a red for all those asking. Us players do put refs in bad spots at times unfortunately!"
Michael Owen: "Both the kid and Hazard were in the wrong. Not having Hazard tried to hurt him though. He just tried to toe poke it out of his grip."
Ian Wright: "To be fair, the ball boy and Hazard acted poorly. It was something you don't see everyday! Can't help smiling. Congrats Swansea by the way."
Gareth Bale: "Unbelievable decision by the referee to send Hazard off but congrats to Swansea. Who'd have predicted this final?!"
Phil Neville: "You can't kick the ball boy that's not right so I again agree with Chris Foy - red card!"
Who's to blame
I think we can all agree that Hazard's actions weren't the most suitable for the situation. But I most certainly don't agree with his demonization in the press. It is fairly clear that Hazard's intentions were to retrieve the ball from the interfering ball-boy and let play carry on. In the heat of the moment he'll probably think he made the wrong call looking back on it. His reaction post-game and since has been one of the utmost professional and I think we have to admire Hazard for this.
As for Charlie Morgan there has been no such action from his Twitter account which has all of a sudden received an influx of followers after the incident. There has been no official apology from Swansea City and nor does it look like the will be.
I think Swansea much be congratulated for the result which I'm fairly confident would have played out the same regardless of Hazard's sending off. However young Morgan no doubt interferred with the play and by that call the club deserves to be fined or another just way the FA deems necessary. This type of incident is not what we want to see in football.
Nevertheless Swansea vs. Bradford will shape up to be a great final.
VIDEO (courtesy of Press Freedom):