Del Horno ban reduced to one game

Chelsea defender Asier del Horno will serve only a one-game Champions League suspension after UEFA agreed to reduce the punishment following his foul on Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

The 25-year-old Spanish left-back was dismissed in the first leg of Chelsea’s last-16 tie against Barcelona last Wednesday, and Chelsea feared he would be banned for three European matches.

However, Del Horno accused Argentinian forward Messi of “acting” to exaggerate the impact of his challenge.

UEFA have been lenient, freeing up Del Horno to play in the quarter-finals of the Champions League if Chelsea can overturn their 2-1 deficit from the first leg.

A Chelsea statement declared: “Following the sending-off of Asier Del Horno against Barcelona, Chelsea FC were asked for our observations on the incident as part of the standard UEFA disciplinary procedure.

“In that submission we made a case that the offence of violent conduct was unjustified and that an automatic three-match ban as a result would similarly be unjust.

“There was no appeal against the dismissal itself as the UEFA disciplinary procedures only allow for a retrospective decision on the basis of mistaken identity, or if there was no contact between the two players.

“After our submission, UEFA analysed video footage of the incident and made the decision that the offence did not constitute violent conduct. It was decided that a three-match ban was not applicable.

“Although Chelsea is still disappointed to lose Asier for the next match in Barcelona, we are pleased that UEFA considered and accepted our submission positively.”

Messi had accused Del Horno of running at him “with bad intent”, to Chelsea’s dismay.

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho even insisted Messi deserved to be punished.

“Can Messi be suspended for acting? Barcelona is a very cultural city. You know all about theatre.

"You have theatres of high quality,” said the former Porto boss.

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