Essien offers apology to Hamann for horror tackle

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The Independent Online

The Chelsea midfielder, Michael Essien, has apologised to Liverpool's Dietmar Hamann for the horror tackle in last Tuesday night's Champions' League game which landed him with a Uefa charge.

The Ghana international spoke to Hamann last night and assured him that there was no malicious intent behind the studs-up challenge which went unpunished by the referee, Herbert Fandel, during the group game at Stamford Bridge.

A Chelsea spokesman said: "Michael has spoken to Dietmar by telephone. He apologised to Dietmar, assured him the tackle was accidental and that there was no malicious intent."

Essien, 23, was criticised by the German international for not apologising immediately after the challenge, which Hamann later claimed had been the worst tackle he had ever suffered.

Hamann, who feared he had broken his leg but managed to walk away from the challenge with gashes just below the knee, is ruled out of Liverpool's match against Middlesbrough today.

Although Fandel and his assistants confirmed that they had missed the incident, Uefa, European football's governing body, charged Essien with "gross unsporting conduct" after reviewing the challenge on video.

Essien's apology will probably be part of any defence Chelsea wish to submit to Uefa. They have until 14 December to respond to the charge which will be heard by Uefa's control and disciplinary body committee the following day.

The Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, yesterday said that he welcomed the use of video to deal with incidents such as Essien's wild tackle. "If you want to protect skilful players, it is good to use the video at times to help," Benitez said. "Sometimes the referee can't see all the things on a football pitch and the video can be used to protect players. Didi is training but he has no confidence [in his leg] and I will have to rest him."

Liverpool will attempt to equal a club record of 10 consecutive clean sheets when they face 10th-placed Middlesbrough at Anfield.

"I prefer not to talk about these things," Benitez said. "I prefer it if I am reminded after the game. But it is good to be close. This is a big club with a big history and the records are difficult to beat."

Liverpool leave tomorrow for the World Club Championship in Japan. Liverpool go straight into the semi-final stage which starts on Wednesday.

Benitez said he was gearing up for a tough test against the other teams, who comprise Brazil's São Paulo, Australia's Sydney FC, Costa Rica's Deportivo Saprissa, Saudi Arabia's Al Ittihad and Egypt's Al Ahly, but was happy with his own side's form.

"Everything is OK. We finished top of the Champions' League group and now if we win [today] against Middlesbrough, everything will be perfect," Benitez added. "That will set us up perfectly for Japan."

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