Swansea: Swansea boss Michael Laudrup was overjoyed with his team’s League Cup semi-final conquest of Chelsea, but feared the Eden Hazard affair will overshadow their Wembley qualification.
Belgian midfielder Hazard was sent off for kicking out at a ball boy as his team, 2-0 down from the first leg of the semi-final, sought an elusive breakthrough in the return tie which ended 0-0 in Wales.
“Well, I know it’s going to take some headlines,” admitted Laudrup.
“I just want to say that, first of all, a situation like that you have to try and understand what went through the head of the man committing the thing.
“I was a player and I can understand he was frustrated and you want the ball boy to give him the ball. I can understand it to a certain extent, but there are things you can never do.”
Swansea will be playing in their first major final when they tackle fourth division Bradford at Wembley on February 24.
“To be in a final for the first time is absolutely fantastic. To have beaten the European champions over two games, it’s really incredible, without conceding a goal,” added Laudrup, who took over from Brendan Rodgers last year.
“There have been times in these two games when they have dominated, but that’s what you expect players of that level to do.
“They had some good chances early in the first game, and today was more or less the same. They knew they had to score two goals, but knew as well if they pushed too far forward we could score on the break. They tried to do it. In many ways, it was a game like the first one.
“They lost the belief they could do it after the red card. Today, you could see when Hazard was sent off they were finished.”
Hazard later met the 17-year-old named locally as Charlie Morgan, son of the Swansea City director Martin Morgan, in the Chelsea dressing room and apologised for the incident.
The Belgian said he had not intended to boot the ballboy. “The boy put his whole body on to the ball and I was just trying to kick the ball and I think I kicked the ball and not the boy,” Hazard told Chelsea TV, according to the club’s official website (www.chelseafc.com).
“I apologise. 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 red card shown by referee Chris Foy will lead the 22-year-old to be banned for three games, though there may be scope for that sanction to be extended.
“They have apologised to each other,” Chelsea’s interim manager Rafael Benitez told reporters. “They knew they were both wrong. He (the ballboy) was wasting time. Hazard wanted to get the ball back quickly and he was kicking. They both made mistakes.
“We will deal with this internally. He was frustrated and just wanted to get the ball back, but we will analyse it and see what happens.”
Premier League players reacted to the incident on social media with Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand condemning the Belgian’s actions, while Stoke striker Michael Owen felt both parties were to blame. “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!” Ferdinand tweeted.