London – Marouane Fellaini will escape with a three-match ban despite headbutting Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross during their running battle at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.
Referee Mark Halsey and his assistants missed the incident at a corner in the 59th minute, as well as several others involving the two players during the 1-1 draw. In two separate clashes between the pair later the Everton midfielder appeared to elbow Shawcross in the face and then swipe at him with his right hand.
But the FA will concentrate on the headbutt, basing their punishment on what would have happened if Halsey had spotted the incident and shown a red card rather than the severity of the offence.
The FA will be free to act when Halsey’s report arrives and they are almost certain to charge Fellaini retrospectively with violent conduct and ban him for three games. They seem certain to ignore the later clashes, at least one of which could also have resulted in a red card.
The Belgium star is also facing a club fine of two weeks’ wages – up to £150,000 – from furious Everton manager David Moyes who was said to be incandescent in the visitors’ dressing-room after Fellaini was clearly caught on camera thrusting his head into Shawcross’s face.
Moyes is known to despise such acts of thuggery and feels let down by one of his most important players who is now likely to miss the Christmas fixtures against West Ham, Wigan and Chelsea.
To his credit, after the match the Scot immediately admitted that Fellaini deserves the punishment coming his way, describing the headbutt as ‘a terrible thing to do’.
Last night the 25-year-old was said to be distraught he had let his team-mates down and that his actions could harm their chances of staying in the top four.
He was the first Everton player off the pitch and later issued a public apology.
“I apologise completely to Ryan Shawcross, my team-mates and to our fans at the game,” said Fellaini. “I lost my temper and it was unprofessional.”
Everton’s only issue is that they feel Shawcross was allowed to get away with holding their player at set-pieces, even though Fellaini was penalised by Lee Probert for a similar offence at Manchester City against Edin Dzeko two weeks ago.
Fellaini said: “There was a lot of pushing and pulling going on inside the Stoke penalty area and I didn’t feel I was getting any protection from the officials.
“Nevertheless I know I shouldn’t have done what I did. I have also apologised to the manager and the staff — I have no excuses.”
Shawcross’s team-mates praised him for not retaliating.
Goalkeeper Asmir Begovic was particularly outraged by what he had seen and was booked by Halsey when he complained furiously to the referee.
“I was a little bit unhappy with what was going on, and the holding and the shirt pulling and everything else that wasn’t really being dealt with,” said Begovic.
“Ryan’s got good composure. Sometimes it’s easy to retaliate but then he would have only hurt himself. He did really well to control himself.
“Fellaini is a great player but it’s just an unfortunate thing and I’m sure it will be dealt with properly. People know they have to come here and compete with us, and sometimes they can go a little bit overboard.”
Stoke defender Andy Wilkinson was punished retrospectively with a three-game ban in September when he was found guilty of violent conduct towards Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli. He said: “I thought Ryan dealt with it really well. If it was out of order then you hold your hands up and take your punishment. It happened to me this season.”
Shawcross was at the centre of everything in this typically hard-fought game between these two teams. He headed into his own goal to give Everton the lead and then supplied the pass for Kenwyne Jones to equalise and preserve Stoke’s 15-game unbeaten home run. – Daily Mail