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Chelsea’s Costa gets three-match ban


LONDON, January 30 – Chelsea striker Diego Costa has been banned for three matches with immediate effect after being found guilty of a violent conduct charge, the Football Association announced Friday.

The Spain international was suspended after a regulatory commission ruled he had stamped on the ankle of Liverpool’s Emre Can in the 12th minute of Tuesday’s League Cup semi-final second leg at Stamford Bridge, which Chelsea won 1-0 to complete a 2-1 aggregate victory.

There is no right of appeal and Costa will now miss Premier League leaders Chelsea’s match at home to title rivals Manchester City on Saturday and subsequent games against Aston Villa and Everton.

The incident was reviewed on video by referee Michael Oliver after the match official did not see it in real time.

Costa denied the charge of violent conduct levelled against him on Wednesday ahead of Thursday’s 1800 GMT deadline.

However, the charge was upheld Friday and Costa banned immediately.

“Diego Costa will serve a three-match suspension with immediate effect after a charge of violent conduct against him was found proven by an independent regulatory commission today (Friday),” said a statement issued by the Football Association, the English game’s governing body.

“The Chelsea forward had denied the charge in relation to an on-field incident involving Liverpool’s Emre Can which occurred in the 12th minute of the League Cup semi-final second leg at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, January 27, 2015.

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“The incident was not seen by the match officials but caught on video.”

– ‘Absolutely accidental’ –

Reaction to the incidents involving Costa and Can and Liverpool’s Martin Skrtel, over which the FA took no action, dominated the aftermath of a game where Branislav Ivanovic scored an extra-time winner.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said the Brazil-born Costa’s challenge on Can was “poor” and could have caused a “nasty” injury.

But Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho said the two incidents had been “absolutely accidental” and blamed television pundits for whipping up controversy over what had happened.

Chelsea, seemingly unwilling to make any further comment about the issue before a decision was reached, cancelled Friday’s pre-match news conference — even though they are obliged to hold one under Premier League rules.

That move came just days after Mourinho was fined £25,000 ($38,000, 34,500 euros) by the FA after he claimed Chelsea were the victims of a media-led “campaign” over diving allegations that was putting referees under pressure.

Cancelling the press conference could also lead to a fine as Premier League rules state clubs must ensure managers present themselves on a Thursday or Friday before a weekend game “save for exceptional circumstances”.

Costa has been in superb form for Chelsea this season, having scored 17 goals in 19 Premier League appearances thus far and his absence against Manchester City will be a blow to Chelsea.

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The London club currently lead second-placed City, the reigning champions, by five points and a Chelsea victory on Saturday would put them eight points in front with 15 games of the league season remaining.

Saturday’s match will complete a memorable eight days at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge ground after Mourinho’s men were sensationally knocked out of the FA by third-tier Bradford City — the Blues’ first home loss this season — before reaching a Wembley final by beating Liverpool.

The top-of-the-table clash is also set to feature the return of former Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard, who scored an 85th-minute equaliser for City when the teams last met in September, to Stamford Bridge.

Lampard, Chelsea’s all-time record goal-scorer, once said he would never play for a rival Premier League club.

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