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The Malaysian Insider :: Sports

Blatter: English FA could have sanctioned Rooney

Posted: 05 Mar 2011 07:49 PM PST

Sepp Blatter takes a dim view of Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson. — Reuters pic

NEWPORT, Wales,  March 6 —English FA would have been within its rights to sanction Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney following an elbowing incident last week, Fifa president Sepp Blatter said yesterday.

The FA said it could not retrospectively take action against Rooney for elbowing Wigan Athletic's James McCarthy in the back of the head in a Premier League match because, under Fifa rules, as referee Mark Clattenburg had already given a foul against the England man for obstruction, they could take no further action.

However, Blatter told a news conference after a meeting of the International Football Association Board (IFAB): "This is up to the discretion of the national association.

"They can use video evidence in the discipline and control committee.

"They can impose or change a decision if a red or yellow card has been given to the wrong player. If there's violence the national association can intervene and punish a player — this is permitted at the discretion of the national association."

The FA were roundly criticised for taking no action against Rooney, and their decision not to take any measures meant he was free to play in United's match against champions Chelsea on Tuesday, when he scored the opening goal, although United eventually lost 2-1.

FA chairman David Bernstein, who was sitting next to Blatter at the news conference, said he was convinced the FA had done the right thing.

Bernstein added: "In the Wayne Rooney situation, under Fifa regulations if the referee sees the incident, which in this case he did do, the FA has no authority except in what is called exceptional circumstances, really exceptional — the Ben Thatcher incident is the only one where that has been used.

"If you open the door to 'halfway exceptional' the floodgates will open.

"I think that has more merit than meets the eye, the basis of the primacy of the referee staying in place has some merit even though that will upset fans sometimes and quite understandably."

Bernstein added: "If the referee states he has seen the incident, the FA is not able to make decisions except in exceptional circumstances."

The most famous case of "exceptional circumstances" in the Premier League was when former Manchester City defender Ben Thatcher received an eight-match suspension after he led with an elbow and fractured the skull of Portsmouth midfielder Pedro Mendes in 2006.

The Portuguese was sent flying into a pitch-side advertising boarding and needed oxygen. Greater Manchester Police made public later they would have opened an inquiry into the incident if the FA had not taken action.

Fifa's rule 77 covers "sanctioning serious infringements which have escaped the match officials' attention", and national associations can rectify "obvious errors" in the referee's disciplinary decisions.

Meanwhile, Blatter called on managers to show more respect to referees after he was asked about Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson questioning the integrity of official Martin Atkinson following the match at Chelsea, when Atkinson made a number of controversial decisions.

Blatter said: "Everyone deserves fair play. Respect starts with self-discipline. This is what we are asking everywhere, from youth teams upwards, and it is also valid for personalities.

"The higher your position the higher your responsibility. Those that have more power should be more responsible towards others. This is a principle in life." — Reuters


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Keita fires Barca 10 points clear of Real Madrid

Posted: 05 Mar 2011 04:37 PM PST

MADRID, March 6 — Seydou Keita made the most of a rare place in the starting line-up to give Barcelona a 1-0 win at home to Real Zaragoza yesterday that put the champions 10 points clear of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.

The Mali midfielder, making only his 10th league start for Pep Guardiola's side this season, swept home a deflected Lionel Messi cross in the 43rd minute at the Nou Camp to lift Barca to 74 points from 27 matches.

It was his fourth goal against Zaragoza in their last two visits to the Catalan capital following his hat-trick against the Aragonese club in a 6-1 home win in October 2009.

Zaragoza goalkeeper Toni Doblas made a string of brilliant saves to prevent a bigger margin of victory for Barca, who rested key players including David Villa, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets with an eye on Tuesday's Champions League last 16, second-leg at home to Arsenal.

Real can trim the gap back to seven with a win at Racing Santander today, although they will have to do so without joint La Liga top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, who injured a leg muscle in Thursday's 7-0 drubbing of Malaga.

"Now they (Real) have the pressure," Barca midfielder Xavi told reporters.

"We dominated and kept the ball and we are on a good run," the Spain World Cup-winner added.

"Now we just need to wait for Real to slip up. It's more and more difficult to win away from home."

European berth

In the earlier kickoff, Pablo Hernandez struck twice to give third-placed Valencia a 2-1 comeback win at Real Mallorca that put Unai Emery's side four points clear of Villarreal, who lost 3-1 at Atletico Madrid in the late game.

Former Arsenal winger Jose Antonio Reyes, Argentina forward Sergio Aguero and Uruguay striker Diego Forlan scored for the Europa League champions to lift them to sixth and boost their chances of a European berth next season.

Valencia are 10 points behind Real on 54, Villarreal have 50 and Atletico are on 38, two behind fifth-placed Espanyol, who play at promoted Levante today.

Reyes set the Calderon alight with a cracking goal to give Atletico a fifth-minute lead, curling the ball into the top corner from 30 metres.

Giuseppe Rossi levelled for the visitors in the 34th before Aguero used his strength to hold off his marker and send a delicate lob over Diego Lopez to make it 2-1 in the 69th.

Forlan, who is having an indifferent season, ran on to a Reyes pass to make the game safe three minutes later.

Mallorca's Ivan Ramis converted a dubious penalty shortly after the half hour at their Iberostar stadium but the lead lasted only two minutes before Pablo drove home from just outside the area.

He then grabbed the winner for Unai Emery's side in the 56th minute when he ran on to a Jonas Goncalves pass and beat Dudu Aouate at his near post with an angled shot.

Mallorca, coached by former Denmark international Michael Laudrup, are 10th on 34, while Zaragoza remained in 15th on 27 points just two points above the drop zone. — Reuters


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