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BLUES cry foul as matic ban reduced BY THE FA

Chelsea are "appalled" and "frustrated" that Nemanja Matic still has to serve a ban after the English Football Association reduced the midfielder's three-game violent conduct suspension to two matches.

Matic was sent off for pushing Ashley Barnes after the Burnley striker had caught the Serbian high on his shin with a late tackle during Saturday's 1-1 Premier League draw at Stamford Bridge.

The English FA's independent regulatory commission reduced Matic's three-game ban by one match on appeal on yesterday evening, but Chelsea were unhappy with the outcome, insisting that the 26-year-old had been "unjustly punished".

"The Chelsea Football Club Board is extremely disappointed and frustrated that the FA Regulatory Commission has today decided not to reduce Nemanja Matic's suspension to the maximum extent permitted under FA rules," a statement posted on the Blues' website, headlined 'Chelsea FC appalled with the FA's decision on Matic', read.

"Chelsea FC challenged the standard three-match suspension which automatically followed the red card issued to Matic by referee Martin Atkinson during Saturday's Premier League match against Burnley.

"There has been universal condemnation of the reckless challenge made by Ashley Barnes on Matic and it is the club's view that he has been unjustly punished with a two-match ban for his reaction to a career-threatening tackle.

"It is Chelsea's opinion that referees and the football authorities must do more to protect players at all levels of the game from dangerous challenges. This decision also clearly demonstrates a need for consistency and fairness in the disciplinary process."

Matic will miss Sunday's League Cup final against Tottenham and next Wednesday's Premier League encounter at West Ham.

The defensive midfielder will be available for Chelsea's Champions League last-16 return leg against Paris St Germain at Stamford Bridge on March 11 and could return to domestic duty four days later as the league leaders host Southampton.

The FA's decision not to rescind Matic's red card is likely to irk Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who defended Matic's reaction and branded Barnes' challenge as ''criminal'' while appearing on Sky Sports' Goals on Sunday programme.

The FA announced on Monday that Barnes would face no disciplinary action for his challenge, but Mourinho told the programme that he thought Barnes' tackle was at least as bad as the one against Liverpool in the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg that earned striker Diego Costa a three-game ban last month.

"I would like to know how do you, Sky Sports, describe the actions of the Burnley player yesterday? My English is not good enough to find a word," said Mourinho.

"When you think 'Diego crimes' after he puts his boot on a hand, when this is 'Diego crimes', the minimum you have to say is 'criminal tackle' (by Barnes).

"When Diego Costa has a three-match ban, probably three matches to Matic...tell me how many matches this player deserves?"

Mourinho's comments about Barnes' tackle prompted Burnley manager Sean Dyche to defend his player in an interview aired on Burnley TV on Monday night.

"When moments like that occur, it's very rare there is not a reaction to that moment in the stadium,'' Dyche said.

"Look at the reaction from a bunch of expert footballers from the Chelsea side - the likes of John Terry, Kurt Zouma, Branislav Ivanovic - big, strong boys who are on right top of this moment.

"Jose Mourinho has a similar view to me, the crowd behind me, circa 15,000, no-one reacts. In live time no-one reacts except Matic. After the event, with hindsight and slow motion, statements like 'criminal tackle' are being used. I find that hard to adjust to.''