SWANSEA // Chelsea's season was hit by yet another high-profile controversy last night after the Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard was sent off for kicking a ball boy at Swansea.
The incident overshadowed the goalless draw in the second leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final at the Liberty Stadium, which saw Swansea progress to the first major final in their history thanks to a 2-0 aggregate win.
It happened just over 10 minutes from time when Hazard lost patience as the ballboy, who is understood to be Charlie Morgan - the son of Swansea director Martin - refused to hand over the ball after it had gone out of play for a goal kick.
The ball boy fell to the ground as Hazard attempted to get the ball from him, with the Blues player then trying to kick it from under him but appearing to instead make contact with the prostrate youngster.
Several Chelsea players went to tend to the ball boy, who was left holding his ribs, before referee Chris Foy produced a red card.
The ball boy was then led away down the tunnel, but is unhurt.
Hazard will not face police action over the incident after 17-year-old Morgan and his father elected not to press charges, but the Belgian will face an anxious wait to see what punishment the FA may choose to add on top of his automatic three-match ban.
And Hazard's unsavoury actions are the last thing Chelsea need in a season already including the John Terry racism scandal, the Mark Clattenburg affair and the unpopular sacking of Roberto Di Matteo.
The £32 million (Dh186m) signing issued an apology through Chelsea TV after the match, claiming he felt he had kicked the ball rather than the ball boy, and spoke to Morgan after the teenager was invited to the Chelsea dressing room.
He said: "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.
"The ball boy 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."
Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez said that Hazard's actions would be dealt with internally by the club, but reacted angrily when he was accused of attempting to condone Hazard's actions after accusing the ball boy of time-wasting.
"I do not know what you expect from me," he said. "Do you think we are not disappointed with the situation, that we do not regret what happened? Do you think they have not apologised? They have done it so what can we do now? Do you want to change things? We cannot.
"The player spoke to the boy and he said sorry because it was a mistake. We know it was a mistake but we talked with the player and the boy so what do you expect?"
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup highlighted the red card as the moment he knew his side would meet Bradford in the final at Wembley.
He said: "They lost the belief they could do it after the red card. You could see when he was sent off that they were finished. After the red card, I saw the reaction from both teams and knew that was it.
"To be in a final for the first time is fantastic. If you add that we have beaten the European champions over two legs then it is incredible."