LONDON, March 18 – Cesc Fabregas has been accused of spitting at Hull's assistant manager after Arsenal progressed to the last four of the FA Cup in a blaze of controversy.
Late goals from Robin van Persie and William Gallas sent Arsenal into a Wembley semi-final with Chelsea after Nicky Barmby had given Hull an early lead.
Hull boss Phil Brown — justifiably it seemed — complained that his side had been denied a replay by the officials’ failure to spot that Gallas was in an offside position when he nodded in the winner, six minutes from time.
But the main focus of his anger was the currently sidelined Fabregas.
According to Brown’s version of events, the Spanish midfielder spat at Hull’s assistant manager, Brian Horton, in the tunnel, just after Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger had walked through without shaking hands with his counterpart.
"You’re not going to get the rub of the green when you come to the Emirates," Brown fumed. "But for their club captain, Cesc Fabregas, to spit at my assistant manager at the end of the game just shows you what this club (Arsenal) is about."
Brown later modified his comments by saying that Fabregas had spat at Horton’s feet while the Gunners skipper categorically denied that the alleged incident had taken place.
"I have never done this in my whole career on the pitch, so why would I do it when I am not even playing?"
Fabregas said. "I can understand the frustration of losing a game to a dubious goal, that has happened to me many times in my career as well. But this is not the fault of me or any of the Arsenal players."
Wenger meanwhile maintained that Gallas’s winning goal was legitimate because a deflection off Hull goalkeeper Boaz Myhill had played the French defender onside, and, perhaps inevitably, the Frenchman said he had "not seen" the alleged incident involving Fabregas.
None of which cut any ice with Brown, who was convinced the referee had succumbed to pressure from the home crowd.
"It’s an absolute disgrace to tell you the truth," he said. "We haven’t been beaten by Arsenal, we’ve been beaten by a linesman’s decision and a referee’s decision."
Whether there is any follow-up to the alleged incident will depend on Horton, who could report Fabregas, who is close to a comeback from a serious knee injury, to the Football Association.
Hull had taken the lead after Arsenal’s defence hesitated when confronted with a long ball from Andy Dawson, allowing Barmby to find the net with a volley and the help of a deflection off Johan Djourou.
Gunners goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, offered a chance to impress in place of the rested Manuel Almunia, then produced a fingertips save to prevent Hull’s Brazilian playmaker, Geovanni, from doubling the lead from a free-kick.
Gradually however the Gunners began to assert themselves and efforts from Arshavin and Abou Diaby went close before van Persie forced Hull keeper Boaz Myhill into a fine save with a perfectly-executed free-kick from 25 yards.
The Dutch striker was not to be denied however, finally finding the net with 16 minutes left thanks to the persistence of substitute Nicklas Bendtner.
The big Dane’s dogged determination enabled him to work the ball to Arshavin who provided the cutback from which van Persie fired Arsenal level.
Bendtner then had a close-range shot blocked behind by Michael Ricketts but Arsenal avoided a replay with six minutes left, with Gallas heading his much-disputed goal home.