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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

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Beckham ban for red card reduced

David Beckham escaped lightly after the Paris Saint-Germain star was suspended for just a single game following his red card during last weekend's hot-tempered 1-0 win at Evian, while team-mate Salvatore Sirigu was also handed a reprieve.

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Beckham's celebrated his 38th birthday on Thursday by arriving at the French Football League's (LFP) headquarters to plead his case in front of the LFP's disciplinary commission.

Le Parisien reported Beckham "explained his surprise" to the panel after being shown a red card by referee Olivier Thual, 36, who dismissed the former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder for a rugged challenge on Evian's Youssef Adnane in added time.

TV replays showed Beckham apparently stamping down on the Evian player and Thual's report described "an aggressive and horizontal gesture". However, PSG lawyer Francois Klein argued, according to Le Parisien, that "on the contrary, it was a gesture undoubtedly spectacular but vertical, intended to impress and not injure".

Beckham was not the only PSG player to breathe a sigh of relief after the hearing either. Shown by TV cameras to be at the centre of the fracas which marred the post-match celebrations, goalkeeper Sirigu, who then also refused to return to the pitch to be shown a red card by Thual, faced a suspension of up to eight games and a premature end to his season.

However, like Evian forward Saber Khlifa, who did go back out onto the Parc des Sports pitch in Annecy to be officially sent off for his part in the brawl, Sirigu was banned for only two matches.

The commission proved clement towards the 26-year-old as a consequence of his virtually unblemished disciplinary record, which was highlighted by Klein, while commission president Pascal Garibian pointed out that there had been only "attempts to punch, and no punches actually connecting".

Deputy sporting director Olivier Letang was handed a one-month ban from the touchline, the dressing room and all official matchday functions for telling Sirigu not to return to the pitch to receive his red card.

Marco Verratti, 20, did not escape quite so easily. The impetuous midfielder was sent off at Evian after picking up a second booking for dissent, and having received a public dressing down from coach Carlo Ancelotti, 53, as he trudged off the pitch in Annecy, he was further sanctioned with a two-game ban.

Despite explaining to the commission in Italian that he promised to change his attitude towards referees, the ex-Pescara player's poor disciplinary record this season - his 11 yellow cards make him the second most-cautioned Ligue 1 player - counted against him.

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