Fabregas 'abused' Hull players before confrontation in tunnel

Arsenal captain accused of on-pitch aggression before alleged spitting incident
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The Independent Football

Cesc Fabregas abused Hull players and staff on the pitch at the Emirates on Tuesday night in the run-up to the alleged spitting incident with assistant manager Brian Horton after the match. Horton is then understood to have waited for the Arsenal captain in the tunnel before launching into a foul-mouthed tirade at him.

The incident has turned into a disciplinary nightmare for the Football Association after it emerged that not one of Setanta's 28 cameras at the match captured any footage of the clash. The fallout from Arsenal's controversial 2-1 FA Cup sixth-round victory over Hull looks like it will now come down to a case of the word of manager Phil Brown, and Horton, against that of Fabregas.

The incident took place in the stadium tunnel after Fabregas, who was not playing in the game, came back to the dressing room having shown what Brown said was "aggression" towards his Hull players. Horton as well as Hull players and staff were angry at their treatment from Fabregas and Gaël Clichy – both of whom rushed on the pitch at the end – and waited for them to come back up the tunnel where the confrontation took place.

The Arsenal captain, who denied spitting on Tuesday night, yesterday released a second statement in which he denied having spat at Michael Ballack in a Champions League game four years earlier. The retrospective explanation was deemed necessary by the player and his club because footage of the incident from March 2005 – when Ballack was a Bayern Munich player – was still available on YouTube.

Having said in response to Brown's allegations on Tuesday night that he "had never done this [spat at an opponent] in my whole career on the pitch", Fabregas was forced to clarify the Ballack incident. In the game, which Arsenal won 1-0 at Highbury, he can be seen leaning close to the face of Ballack, who is lying on the ground having been fouled by Fabregas. Ballack recoils, Fabregas runs away and is booked.

Yesterday Fabregas claimed that he had not spat at Ballack but reprimanded him for play-acting over the tackle. Fabregas said: "I have seen this video on the internet many times before and I remember the incident clearly.

"It was four years ago and I lent over to Michael Ballack who was playing for Bayern Munich at the time and I shouted at him because I felt like I did not make a bad tackle and I felt that the contact was minimal. I did not spit at him. It happens during matches that sometimes you have heated exchanges with your opponents.

"I am not proud of it but I was 17 years old. The referee saw it and gave me a yellow card. People can try to find as many video clips as they like from when I was 17 years old or when I was 12 playing for my school team but this does not change anything. The simple fact is that I did not spit at the assistant manager of Hull City."

The FA have asked for Hull to put their complaints in writing and when they see them will ask for a response from Arsenal. Hull are expected to complain about the behaviour of Arsenal's stewards in the tunnel who are understood to have goaded Horton as he went back to the dressing room at half-time. However, it is unlikely that Fabregas will be charged as there is no definitive evidence that he did spit at Horton.

Brown is most likely to find himself in trouble with the FA over his comments about Mike Riley and linesman Andy Garratt in which he implied they had "cheated" Hull by allowing William Gallas' offside winning goal to stand.

Arsenal fine their non-playing squad members for not attending games. Brown yesterday listed his grievances against Fabregas. "One: being on the pitch after the game – he had no right to be there. Two: he dressed in the manner in which he was dressed. Three: the pictures verify the aggression he was showing towards our players and staff after the game.

"I am not going to report it. If the FA want to investigate it, that is their decision. It was a disgraceful act. Whichever way you look at it, spitting at Brian Horton or spitting on the ground, it doesn't matter. He addressed that spitting incident as my assistant manager, who has managed more than 1,000 games in his career. That is their club captain, hopefully he is proud of himself."