Whelan urges lengthy ban as Uefa charges Essien

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The Independent Football

Michael Essien was last night charged with gross sporting misconduct by Uefa, European football's governing body, following his appalling challenge on Liverpool's Dietmar Hamann during Tuesday's Champions' League tie, a decision that will do little to repair the uneasy relationship between Chelsea and European football's governing body.

The Premiership champions were confident no action would be taken over the first-half incident, one that was missed by the referee Herbert Fandel but prompted the intervention of Sepp Blatter, the president of the game's world governing body Fifa, and even the Wigan chairman Dave Whelan, who yesterday called for the 23-year-old to be handed a 10-match ban.

Blatter had reminded Uefa that, contrary to its guidelines on retrospective punishments, it could use television evidence against Essien if the match official admitted he had not dealt with the incident correctly at the time. A Uefa statement last night confirmed it had "occurred out of the sight of both the referee and his assistants during the 0-0 Group G draw at Stamford Bridge" and Essien's fate will now be decided by Uefa's Control and Disciplinary Body at its meeting next Thursday.

The former Chelsea player Marcel Desailly was charged with the same offence following a Champions' League semi-final against Monaco and given a three-match suspension, reduced to two on appeal, while Alex Rae of Rangers was handed a five-match ban after a game against CSKA Moscow in August last year.

Whelan, whose side travel to Stamford Bridge tomorrow, said: "It was diabolical, the worst tackle I've seen in a very long time. How the referee didn't see that I don't know. You just cannot go over the ball like that. He should be banned for a minimum of six games and a maximum of 10. How the Liverpool lad didn't break his leg I don't know."

Whelan was forced to pursue an alternative career when he suffered a broken leg against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the 1960 FA Cup final. He went on to form the JJB sports retail empire that has helped fund the rise of Paul Jewell's side from the old Second Division to the Premiership in three years.

Uefa's action will antagonise Jose Mourinho and Chelsea, who fell out with the governing body last season over the behaviour of the referee Anders Frisk during their Champions' League tie in Barcelona.