London: Eden Hazard has apologised after his extraordinary dismissal for kicking a ball boy during Chelsea's League Cup semi-final second leg at Swansea City.
Wednesday's match finished 0-0, giving Swansea a 2-0 aggregate victory, but the game was overshadowed by an incident 10 minutes from full-time that saw Hazard sent off for an altercation with a ball boy.
The Belgian international seemed to get annoyed when the boy failed to return the ball promptly after it went out of play for a Swansea goal kick.
After a tussle, the youngster ended up lying on top of the ball and Hazard appeared to kick him as he tried to retrieve the ball from underneath him.
Following a brief delay, during which the grimacing boy was attended to by Chelsea's players, referee Chris Foy showed Hazard a straight red card.
"The boy put his whole body onto the ball and I was just trying to kick the ball and I think I kicked the ball and not the boy. I apologise," Hazard told Chelsea TV.
"The ball boy came in the changing room and we had a quick chat and I apologised and the boy apologised as well, and it is over. Sorry."
South Wales police have announced that they will investigate the incident, but Swansea said the boy had told police he did not want to press charges.
"The police have interviewed the boy and his father and there are no charges going to be pressed. As far as they are concerned, that is the matter closed," said a Swansea spokesman.
"The ball boy has been into the Chelsea dressing room after the game and shaken hands with Eden Hazard. The likes of John Terry and Frank Lampard were exemplary in their behaviour in welcoming him into the dressing room.
"Chelsea asked if he could come in and our kit lady took him in and they shook hands, he is fine.
"As far as we are concerned, the matter is closed. He has been a ball boy here for six years with no incidents here at the stadium."
Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez initially said the ball boy was "wasting time", but he reacted angrily to claims he had condoned Hazard's behaviour.
"I do not know what you expect from me," he told reporters.
"Do you think we are not disappointed with the situation, that we do not regret what happened? Do you think they have not apologised?"
He added: "We will deal with this internally. We will analyse and wait to see if there is any action from the FA (Football Association)."
Chelsea at first reacted by questioning Foy's decision to dismiss Hazard, writing on the club's official Twitter account: "Has football gone mad? Hazard is sent off for kicking the ball under a ballboy attempting to smother the ball rather than return it."
However, they subsequently issued an apology to their 1.79 million followers, saying: "Apologies for earlier ballboy tweet. Hazard has now met with the ballboy and has said sorry."
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup dismissed suggestions the club had instructed their ball boys to waste time by holding onto the ball when it went out of play.
"No, definitely not. He was pushed and he was on top of the ball," he said.
"I can understand you're frustrated when you're behind and your pulse is going, but there are things you should never do."
Swansea will face fourth-tier Bradford City in the final at Wembley on February 24.