Manchester City made their way through to the FA Cup Final after a 2-1 win over Chelsea at Wembley on Sunday, but their win was somewhat marred by a terrible late tackle by eventual match-winner, Sergio Aguero.
City had gone ahead before halftime through Samir Nasri's close range finish, before Aguero made his most positive contribution to the game, heading in off the far post less than two minutes after the restart. Chelsea's Demba Ba managed to spin and volley home one back for his side, but despite plenty of late pressure they were unable to find an equaliser.
Aguero himself had been a real presence in the match as it swung from end to end for a long time, giving Chelsea centre-backs Branislav Ivanovic and David Luiz plenty of headaches with his strength and movement.
His goal was a magnificent arcing header which looped over Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal, and his industrious all-round display was worthy of making him the match-winner—until his late moment of madness saw him lunge into a two-footed tackle on Luiz, clearly catching the Chelsea man.
There can be little doubt; Aguero was extremely lucky not to receive a red card at that moment, with the referee merely signalling for a free kick.
But what about afterwards? Certainly there is plenty of a backlog of instances now where the FA have ruled, after the event, that a player should be banned for violent conduct which was missed by the officials during the match. But how many of those for which a free kick is given, still go on to attract a post-game ban?
For that was surely warranted in this case.
Aguero is not a dirty player habitually, but he is also far from an evangelical presence on the field. This is a hard-working, battling, born winner, who possesses an immense amount of quality. It's not the first time he has been shown a red card in his career either; a sending off against Bolton Wanderers some time ago while playing for Atletico Madrid stands out, as do a pair of yellow cards—and subsequent red—for diving, while also at Atleti.
A straight red card, or a disciplinary panel post-game suspension, for violent conduct yields a three-match ban.
Should Aguero then be missing those games? David Luiz claims that the striker should apologise and accept responsibility, but also says he does not bear a grudge against him (via BBC). The FA have then deemed the foul to have been dealt with, erroneously surely, by the officials at the time. As per BBC:
The Football Association said the 24-year-old Argentina striker will not be charged retrospectively for the two-footed tackle in City's 2-1 victory. It follows confirmation referee Chris Foy saw at least part of the incident and acted on it during the match.
Is this good enough? It was a foul, and an horrendous one, and so Aguero certainly should face some punishment.
Were he to miss three games, he would now sit out matches against Wigan Athletic, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United. With rivals Man United having all but wrapped up the league title, these are games which essentially mean very little to City.
Perhaps a return to classifying the English domestic competitions as individual entities would have been more appropriate in this case, forcing Aguero therefore to miss the next match in the competition he was sent off in.
In other words, he would have been suspended for the FA Cup Final itself.
Instead, Aguero will face no punishment at all and is free to continue taking part in City's end-of-season matches, saluted as the man who sent his team through to the final.
David Luiz, meanwhile, will have to nurse his bruised rear end and battered ego, as he bids to help his side to glory in the Europa League instead.
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