Football: Bergkamp to miss Cup semi-final after red card

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The Independent Online
THE price Dennis Bergkamp will pay for his elbow in the face of West Ham United's Steve Lomas on Tuesday night became clear yesterday. The Dutchman's three-match ban will incorporate the FA Cup semi-final, against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Villa Park on 5 April.

However, if that match is drawn, there will be a silver lining. The suspension starts a week on Tuesday, when Arsenal visit Bolton Wanderers, five days before the semi-final, and a replay, if necessary, is already scheduled for the following Wednesday even though, in earlier rounds, police require a minimum of 10 days' notice from the Football Association to organize their match-day security forces.

So Bergkamp could be free to return for the home game against Newcastle on 11 April. But the pounds 7.5m striker is still in danger of a further ban. He is free to face Sheffield Wednesday at Highbury a week on Saturday but a booking then would put him on eight yellow cards for the season and incur another suspension for two matches.

Bergkamp has been booked nine times already this term. But one of those was in the Coca-Cola Cup which has no bearing on Premiership or FA Cup suspensions and another has been deleted under the experimental FA system which rewards players who complete five consecutive matches without a booking.

Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira have already been fined by Arsene Wenger this season for dissent, and retaliation would seem to come under the same heading.

Wenger's concern is that he will miss key players for the backlog of fixtures which is piling up at a frightening rate. Arsenal still have 10 League games to go - compared to Manchester United's seven - and now a new date for the trip to Liverpool, which was due to take place on FA Cup semi final day, must be found.

Wenger believes there is still the outside chance of an extension to the League season - a subject over which he and Alex Ferguson fell out last term when the United manager objected to his team having to finish the campaign with four games in nine days. Wenger has no plans to make a similar application this time but said: "There could still be a case for it if it is fair to everybody."

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