Uefa ban Mihajlovic for eight games after Chelsea red card

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The Independent Online

Sinisa Mihajlovic, the Lazio defender, has been banned for eight European matches by Uefa following his dismissal during Tuesday's Champions' League match against Chelsea.

The Serbia-Montenegro defender kicked and spat at the Chelsea striker Adrian Mutu during the match, and was also sent off for two bookable offences. Chelsea won the game in Rome 4-0.

Uefa, European football's governing body, chose to take into account Mihajlovic's previous poor disciplinary record, hence the stiff penalty. A fine of £9,000 was also imposed for his repeated unsporting behaviour.

The veteran centre-back is no stranger to trouble. A member of Red Star Belgrade's European Cup-winning team of 1991, for a long time he was considered the best free-kick taker in the world and has been a regular scorer at club level, but his career has been dogged by suspensions and controversy.

He was handed a two-match ban by Uefa in October 2000 after racially abusing Arsenal's Patrick Vieira during a Champions' League match. The latest decision can be appealed against by midnight on Monday.

Ugo Longo, the Lazio president, said yesterday: "The ban is excessive considering the previous precedent.

"We will talk to the player to decide what the next step will be. In any case we'll try and get a reduction in the sentence but first we must consult Mihajlovic." Although Longo was disappointed by the punishment handed out by Uefa, he added: "Lazio are going to fine the player."

A statement from Uefa said: "The Uefa Control and Disciplinary Body today decided to impose an eight-match ban on Sinisa Mihajlovic for spitting at and kicking an opponent as well as for his improper conduct towards a Uefa official after having been sent off for two yellow cards at the Champions' League match against Chelsea."

The Leeds striker Mark Viduka was not part of the squad which flew south to Portsmouth after a "training ground incident" yesterday morning. The Australian is believed to have had yet another dispute with the club's manager, Peter Reid, and was last night not expected to be part of the Yorkshire side's plans against Portsmouth. Reid said: "Mark Viduka did not travel with the rest of the squad following a training ground incident."

Yesterday's row followed a similar disagreement last weekend when Viduka was left out of the squad to face Arsenal at Elland Road after he turned up late for the match having been late for training earlier in the week.

Viduka left the ground and though he and Reid were reported to have patched up their differences earlier this week, the relationship between manager and player now seems to be irretrievably damaged.

The Football Association are confident that they can agree terms with the England players over a lucrative bonus scheme for the Euro 2004 finals. The FA last night issued a joint statement with the England players' committee - consisting of David Beckham, Michael Owen, Sol Campbell and Gary Neville - to deny reports of any antagonism over the issue.

Talks have not yet started over the bonus scheme and while these discussions have proved difficult in the past, most notably before the 1998 World Cup in France, agreement was reached quickly before the last two major tournaments.

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