Inquiry after footballer hurls missile into angry crowd

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The Independent Football

The Liverpool footballer Jamie Carragher is being investigated by the police after he threw a missile aimed at him back into the crowd during his side's 1-0 FA Cup defeat to Arsenal yesterday.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman confirmed that officers were looking at the incident, which happened late in the second half at Highbury.

The Gunners beat Liverpool in the Premiership with 10 men just before Christmas, and repeated the feat with nine yesterday to advance to the fifth round of the Cup.

What was otherwise a thrilling tie was marred by three red cards. Carragher was dismissed for Liverpool, while Arsenal had Martin Keown and Dennis Bergkamp sent off. Bergkamp had headed Arsenal's goal in the 28th minute to give the hosts a measure of revenge after losing 2-1 to Liverpool in last season's FA Cup final. Keown was sent off in the 67th minute for tugging Michael Owen's shirt to prevent a scoring chance, while Bergkamp and Carragher went four minutes later. Bergkamp got his marching orders for a late two-footed tackle on Carragher, who followed the Dutchman off after he threw what appeared to be a coin back into the crowd. It did not help matters that the Liverpool player was standing next to the referee at the time.

Phil Thompson, Liverpool's caretaker manager, was understandably scathing about Carragher's behaviour, saying: "He can't do what he did – two wrongs don't make a right. He let himself down, his team-mates down and the club down."

Thompson's Arsenal counterpart, Arsène Wenger, whose side have collected 42 red cards since he took over in 1996, applauded his team's "unbelievable character" in hanging on to a one-goal lead when playing with only nine men, but admitted: "Maybe we need to improve our behaviour."

Carragher, who has played for England, issued a public apology last night on Liverpool's official website. "I regret what happened at Highbury today because I let the club, the fans, my team-mates and myself down," he said.

"No matter what the physical or verbal provocation, I shouldn't have reacted like that and I want to apologise for any offence I've caused. I was frustrated and I did it without thinking in the heat of the moment. Everyone who has seen me play regularly will realise that it was completely out of character, but I'm not trying to make excuses. It was wrong, and, as a professional footballer, I should have known better. It's a mistake that I won't make again."

Arsenal appealed for help to identify the person who threw the object at Carragher and say they will ban the person for life when they have done so.