The Football Association will examine television footage and the contents of referee Lee Mason’s report before deciding whether Hull City winger George Boyd will face any retrospective sanction after pictures appeared to show him spitting at Joe Hart when the England goalkeeper squared up to him at the KC Stadium on Saturday.
Worryingly for Manchester City, they will also scrutinise fourth official Anthony Taylor’s report after the cameras tracked captain Vincent Kompany’s departure from the field following his 10th-minute red card in City’s 2-0 win, amid suggestions that he made a hand gesture in Taylor’s direction before aiming an angry kick at a wall at the entrance to the players’ tunnel.
If Taylor confirms the gesture, Kompany risks having his mandatory suspension – likely to be for one match – extended, which may mean he misses the Manchester derby a week on Tuesday as well as Saturday’s home match with bottom-of-the- table Fulham, and potentially the match against Arsenal at the Emirates a week on Saturday.
Kompany was shown a straight red card by referee Mason for dragging down Hull’s Nikica Jelavic, denying the Croatian forward a clear run on Hart’s goal. The defender believed Jelavic had fouled him to win the ball in the first place.
An FA spokesman said Boyd faces a possible charge if Mason, who booked Hart, did not see the spitting incident. Hart reacted aggressively after Boyd seemed to dive under his challenge in an attempt to win a penalty 20 minutes from the end, at which point the visitors, despite having only 10 players, were a goal in front and defending their lead impressively.
Hart leaned into Boyd with his forehead, in much the same way that the Newcastle manager, Alan Pardew, did two weeks ago in a confrontation with Hull’s David Meyler. Pardew’s action was interpreted as a head-butt and landed him a seven-match ban. This time the contact was less clear-cut, although Boyd felt Hart should have been sent off.
“His reaction was over the top,” Boyd said. “He didn’t nut me but he’s put his head in, so he should have got sent off really. The ref gave him a yellow, so he’s seen that something’s happened.”
Boyd denied he had dived. “He [Hart] said afterwards that he didn’t touch me but I thought he touched me a little bit,” he said. “You don’t want to get people sent off deliberately. It was just a heat-of-the-moment thing.”
A City source said that Hart, who apologised to Boyd for his reaction, was unaware of any spitting. The Hull manager, Steve Bruce, dismissed the claim as “a load of rubbish”.
“He’s tried to talk and something has come out,” Bruce said. “That’s what I’ve seen. George Boyd wouldn’t do that; no chance.”
All this overshadowed an outstanding performance by City and a result, combined with Chelsea’s defeat at Aston Villa, that substantially reinforces their Premier League title bid. After their defeats to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup and Barcelona in the Champions League, it also demonstrated an impressive depth of character.
Reorganising quickly after Kompany’s loss, they took the lead within less than five minutes of the red card when man-of-the-match David Silva curled a superb shot beyond the reach of Hull goalkeeper Allan McGregor. They then defended brilliantly, no one more so than the maligned Martin Demichelis, who marshalled the back four superbly in Kompany’s absence, before a perfectly weighted pass by Silva set up Edin Dzeko to score a late second goal.
“When your captain gets a red card, you want to show you can do it without him as well as for him,” Samir Nasri said afterwards. “When everyone plays for the team, it doesn’t matter if we have 10 or 11.”
The result puts City’s destiny squarely in their own hands, having played three matches less than Chelsea, who lead them by six points. “We know that if we win our last 11 games we are going to be champions,” Nasri added.