Football: Player 'assaults referee'

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FAN ZHIYI, one of Crystal Palace's Chinese international defenders, is likely to face disciplinary action from the Football Association following an alleged assault on the referee, Terry Heilbron, after his side's 3- 2 defeat at West Bromwich Albion last night.

Fan, the captain of the Chinese national side who was sent off in Palace's game at Grimsby last Saturday, was one of several players who surrounded the official after the final whistle last night following the controversial award of a match-winning penalty to Albion in stoppage time.

After the game Terry Venables, the Palace manager, reported a conversation with Mr Heilbron in which the referee said that Fan "struck me or attempted to strike me as we left the field".

Venables added: "He said he would be seeking the video of the match to support his complaint."

When interviewed by reporters, Mr Heilbron refused to discuss what had happened other than to say he would be reporting "the conduct of a Crystal Palace player" whom he did not name. The official also asked to make a statement to the police regarding the incident.

In a dramatic finish to the match Fan's international team-mate, Sun Jihai, was sent off for a second bookable offence before three goals were scored in the space of nine minutes, ending with the penalty that clinched the points for Albion.

Venables said he was "disappointed to say the least" with the penalty award after Craig Moore had brought down the Albion substitute, Enzo Maresca.

"I didn't talk to the press after we had two players sent off at Grimsby last Saturday but this is an even worse situation," Venables said. "I'm afraid that I'll get into trouble if I say too much. When you are feeling like I am at this moment, it is best to wait until you have cooled down before making any comment."

Match report, page 30