Mascherano faces FA charge over sending off

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The Independent Football

Liverpool were last night left to consider their response after midfielder Javier Mascherano was charged with improper conduct.

The Football Association issued the charge over Mascherano's reaction to his dismissal from Sunday's 3-0 Premier League defeat by Manchester United. The Argentine midfielder had to be dragged from the pitch by coaching staff and colleagues after being shown a red card in the 45th minute by Steve Bennett.

The referee had awarded a second yellow card following his protests against a caution issued to Liverpool striker Fernando Torres. Manager Rafael Benitez admitted Mascherano made a mistake in refusing to leave the pitch, but felt his sending-off was harsh.

The club has until 6pm today to respond, with the case scheduled to be heard by a regulatory commission on 4 April. Mascherano can accept or deny the charge and can also request a personal hearing.

The 23-year-old is currently serving a one-match suspension for the dismissal, ruling him out of Sunday's Merseyside derby against Everton at Anfield.

But if the charge of improper conduct is upheld then he will also miss Premier League games against Arsenal on 5 April and Blackburn eight days later. However, any ban would exclude the Champions League quarter-final first and second legs against Arsenal on 2 and 9 April.

Benitez had reacted to Mascherano's red card by demanding talks with referees' supremo Keith Hackett.

The Spaniard said: "I would like to speak to Keith Hackett, because it is important that we find a solution. At Liverpool we respect the game; we respect the rules and we respect the referee – and it is important to remember that Mascherano was the first Liverpool player to be sent off in the league this season."

Meanwhile, Sami Hyypia appears set to sign a new contract this weekend which will extend his stay at Anfield beyond a decade. The veteran defender's current deal runs out at the end of the season, but Benitez yesterday spoke of his confidence that talks on an extension will be concluded this week.

The manager said: "Rick Parry [the club's chief executive] is due to talk to Sami's agent this weekend, and we hope everything will then be finished."

Hyypia – who has been linked with Fulham and Newcastle – has made it clear he wants to end his top-flight career at Anfield, and is now expected to sign another one-year extension.

That means Hyypia will join a select band of Liverpool players who have spent more than 10 years at the club, the Finn having arrived under Gerard Houllier in 1999. The 34-year-old has made no secret of his desire to remain on Merseyside.

Hyypia was expected to take a back seat this season, thanks to Danish youngster Daniel Agger's progress as a partner for Jamie Carragher. But Agger has missed virtually the entire season with a broken metatarsal and has now been ruled out until next term.

Hyypia has played 37 games this season and been one of Liverpool's most consistent performers.

Next season, with Agger fit again and recent arrival Martin Skrtel continuing to develop, Hyypia can expect to be used less frequently. But Benitez wants his experience around Anfield as a strong back-up.

Hyypia was a key part of the side that won three cups in 2001, playing at the back alongside Stephane Henchoz. He was also one of the important performers in the run to the Champions League triumph in Istanbul three years ago, his volleyed goal proving crucial in the quarter-final defeat of Juventus.

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