Reyes ban delivers slap in face for Arsenal cause

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Arsenal's disciplinary problems mounted yesterday as their Spanish forward Jose Antonio Reyes was banned for three matches.

Reyes was found guilty of violent conduct after he slapped Andy Liddell around the face during the FA Cup fifth-round tie against Sheffield United at Highbury on Saturday, an incident which was not seen by the referee Neale Barry at the time.

Dennis Bergkamp is suspended for the same games after he became the 57th player sent off during Arsène Wenger's reign for shoving the Blades defender Danny Cullip a split-second before Reyes struck Liddell.

The double suspension leaves Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie as the only senior strikers at Wenger's disposal for the Premiership matches against Southampton and Portsmouth and the replay against Sheffield United next week.

Wenger defended Reyes and Bergkamp after the match and focused on what he felt was a foul on Cesc Fabregas by Cullip which appeared to spark the pushing and shoving.

"We will appeal against the sending-off," the Frenchman said. "We will appeal on the grounds that he didn't hit [Cullip], he pushed him. But I must say I was shocked by what I saw against Fabregas.

"Their number 32 [Cullip] hit him on the head. The intention was there although he didn't hit him hard. But I don't like to see that. He hit him on purpose. We will accept everything the FA does. We have no other choice but we do not want to lose Reyes. Reyes may be a yellow card but I don't see why one case should be linked with the other."

Reyes denied the charge against him but after examining the incident the Football Association's disciplinary commission found him guilty, and an FA statement said: "At a disciplinary commission hearing today, a charge of violent conduct against Arsenal striker Jose Antonio Reyes was found to be proven.

"As a result, a three-match suspension will start with immediate effect.

"Reyes had denied the breach of FA Rule E3 which related to an incident during Arsenal's FA Cup fifth-round match against Sheffield United at Highbury on Saturday, 19 February."

Dennis Wise will also be up before the disciplinary panel, after being charged with improper conduct by the FA.

It follows an incident towards the end of the Championship match with Cardiff at Ninian Park on Tuesday, which Millwall won 1-0. The Millwall player-manager was sent to the stands after he threw down a water bottle which then struck the referee's assistant.

The game finished with an ugly mêlée, for which referee Mike Jones handed out three red cards. First off was Alan Dunne for striking Chris Barker, then Cardiff's James Collins and Millwall's Dave Livermore were also dismissed.

Like Reyes, Wise has been charged with a breach of FA Rule E3 and has until Thursday 10 March to issue a response.

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