Eden Hazard, a Belgium star who plays for Chelsea in the English Premier League, capped the Blues' nightmarish end in the League Cup by kicking a ball boy who was apparently wasting time in returning the ball to the pitch after it went out of play.
The ball had gone across the end line in the 79th minute during a 0-0 draw Wednesday against Swansea City, giving Chelsea a goal kick. A ball boy was attempting to retrieve the ball when Hazard ran up and made contact with the teenager, knocking him to the ground. The ball boy appeared to stall for time by covering the ball under his torso as he lay on the ground.
The Chelsea midfielder, who turned 21 on Jan. 7, then kicked the boy in the ribs, causing him to roll over and expose the ball. Hazard grabbed it and ran back onto the pitch. Referee Chris Foy immediately gave Hazard a red card.
Swansea advanced to the League Cup final, where it will play fourth-tier Bradford City, with a 2-0 aggregate result.
Rafa Benitez, Chelsea's manager, said Hazard and the ball boy later apologized to each other.
“They both recognize there was a mistake,” Benitez said. “The boy was apologizing for time wasting. Hazard was frustrated and tried to get the ball. He was kicking the ball and getting the ball.”
Swansea Manager Michael Laudrup was less forgiving.
“The ball boy should have let the ball go, but he was pushed first and then he kicks him,” Laudrup said. “As a player, when you are behind, your pulse is very high and sometimes you say and do things. You overreact. But there are some things you cannot do.”