The Football Association risked the further wrath of Jose Mourinho yesterday when it took less than one day to dismiss Chelsea's claims that their goalkeepers Petr Cech and Carlo Cudicini were deliberately injured by Reading players on Saturday in the case that has divided English football this week.
Chelsea's letter of complaint detailing their grievances reached Soho Square only on Wednesday night, but the FA's compliance department has already reviewed the replays of the incident and decided that neither Stephen Hunt, whose knee inflicted a depressed skull fracture on Cech, or Ibrahima Sonko, who collided with Cudicini, have a case to answer. Given the way in which the question of responsibility has divided players and pundits this week, it is perhaps little surprise that the FA has decided against action. The footage of the Cech incident, in particular, has revealed no clear-cut evidence that Hunt intended to strike the goalkeeper with his knee, regardless of Mourinho's certainty that the striker was to blame. The FA compliance department would have found it extremely difficult to make a case for the Reading man's guilt.
The match referee, Mike Riley, also confirmed that he saw both incidents which, under the letter of the law, makes it difficult for the FA to act, given that the official is deemed already to have dealt with them. Although an exception was made in the case of Ben Thatcher's elbow on Portsmouth's Pedro Mendes earlier this season, the evidence this time is nowhere near as clear.
The FA's decision leaves Chelsea with little chance of seeing the two Reading players punished. However, it would be premature to expect the fallout from the injury to Cech, who was transferred to another hospital yesterday, to end with this ruling. Mourinho is likely to have his say on the FA's decision at some point and it is also likely to make Chelsea even more determined to win their dispute with Reading and the South Central Ambulance Service NHS Trust over the care given to Cech.
Chelsea are to raise issues with the FA, rather than make a formal complaint, over the immediate aftermath of Cech's injury. At the centre of the intrigue is the case of the missing 10 minutes: Chelsea say that they called an ambulance at 5.35pm on Saturday. Reading say that it was requested at 5.40pm and the ambulance service puts the call at 5.45pm.
The Conservative MP for Reading East, Rob Wilson, said he had tabled a motion calling on Mourinho and Chelsea "to quietly reflect on their behaviour, in seeking to sow unwarranted discord". Wilson added: "I am extremely disappointed that Chelsea and its manager behaved in a short-sighted and petulant way, not only towards Reading FC but towards our NHS staff. They behaved in a hot-headed way, lashing out at anyone and everyone. They have let themselves down."
Cech left the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford yesterday for an unnamed hospital nearer to his home in Surrey. After treatment for his skull fracture, Chelsea said: "Petr's condition is improving every day and he is now walking again unaided."
After the win over Barcelona in the Champions' League on Wednesday, Frank Lampard described Cech's injury as a "freak" which had meant a "difficult time" for the Chelsea players. "It gave an extra dimension to our game. There was a lot of spirit among the lads and we wanted to win the game, not exactly for Petr but with Petr in mind."
While the match-winner Didier Drogba claimed that despite scoring nine goals this season he has not yet hit the form he managed with his old club Marseilles, Lampard paid tribute to the striker. "That's what happens when you're a striker. You have to go through the highs and the lows and Didi's on a high," he said. "You've got the other end of the scale with Shevchenko, who is a world-class striker for years and, at the moment, he can't get his goals."Reuse content