Eduardo escapes ban as legal case takes a dive

Arsenal striker cleared to play in Champions League tomorrow after Uefa is forced into U-turn

Eduardo da Silva's two-match ban for his tumble against Celtic in their Champions League qualifier was sensationally overturned last night after Uefa botched its own legal case against the Arsenal striker.

The governing body's campaign against diving in football was in tatters yesterday as Uefa's legal case collapsed at the hearing in Nyon. The Independent revealed this month that the prosecution case put together by Uefa was shambolic and lacking in detail, and Arsenal's lawyers duly took it apart at the hearing in Switzerland, which was attended by Eduardo in person.

The Croatia international will now be eligible to play for Arsenal in the Champions League against Standard Liège tomorrow and against Olympiakos on 29 September, having previously been expected to be banned for both games. For the Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, who described the case against Eduardo as a "witch-hunt", the verdict is an emphatic victory.

It is understood that when Arsenal received the full charge from Uefa there were serious shortcomings in its evidence. Under its own rules, Uefa had to prove that it was Eduardo's intention to con the Spanish referee Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez, a charge that, it is understood, it never got close to proving. Uefa also failed to send any video evidence in support of its claim.

Arsenal believed from the very start that Uefa's charge of Eduardo was politically motivated and dreamt up on the hoof so that the organisation could appear to be taking a hard-line stance when confronted with an issue that had attracted intense interest in the media. The humiliating climbdown from Uefa would suggest that Arsenal were correct.

Also extremely damaging to the Uefa case was Arsenal successfully proving that there had been contact between Eduardo and Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc before the player went to ground in the incident at the Emirates on 26 August. Arsenal's submission to Uefa pointed out that it had made "fundamental errors" in its evidence and had not engaged in the necessary "forensic analysis" of the incident.

The case was put together for Uefa by its control and disciplinary body on the basis of a little-used rule – article 10, paragraph 1C – that dictates a two-match ban for any player "acting with obvious intent to cause any match official to make an incorrect decision". The Uefa appeals body yesterday conceded that the case had not been proved.

"Following examination of all the evidence, notably the declarations of both the referee and the referees' assessor, as well as the various video footage, it was not established to the panel's satisfaction that the referee had been deceived in taking his decision on the penalty."

In a statement last night Arsenal said they were "grateful that the appeal body focused on the evidence and made the right decision". The club said: "We were able to show that there was contact between the goalkeeper and Eduardo and that the decision of the Uefa disciplinary body should be annulled. We support the drive for fair play and believe it is important that Uefa provide clear and comprehensive standards that will be consistently enforced going forward. We are glad to put this incident behind us and concentrate on the games ahead."

The FA has delayed until today Emmanuel Adebayor's potential ban for violent conduct for his stamp on Robin van Persie and for celebrating in front of Arsenal fans during Manchester City's victory on Saturday.

Mark Hughes, the City manager, said that Adebayor had sustained "a tremendous amount of personal abuse. The referee had a great view of the challenge from Adebayor and the one that preceded it by Van Persie and deemed at the time that neither were worthy of a yellow or red card," he said.

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