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By ESPN Staff

Essien banned for two matches

LONDON -- Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien was banned for two Champions League matches by UEFA on Thursday for a studs-up tackle on Liverpool's Dietmar Hamann.

The ban will rule the 23-year-old Ghana midfielder out of both legs of Chelsea's Champions League last-16 tie, to be played on Feb. 21/22 and Mar. 7/8.

Essien was charged with "gross unsporting conduct" for the challenge on the Germany midfielder during a Champions League match at Stamford Bridge on Dec. 6, it was announced on UEFA's website.

Essien, who subsequently apologized to Hamann, escaped punishment on the night for the tackle which Hamann described as the worst he had ever suffered.

UEFA announced the ban after a meeting of its control and disciplinary body on Thursday, when Essien's plea for mitigation and his previous unblemished disciplinary record were taken into account.

Enlish Premier League leaders Chelsea will discover its opponents in the knockout round when the draw is made in Nyon, Switzerland on Friday.