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Aug, 28, 2009

Wenger fumes over Eduardo "witch-hunt"

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has slammed UEFA's decision to charge Eduardo with diving as a "complete disgrace" and a "witch-hunt" against the striker.

The Croatian took a tumble to win a controversial penalty in the Gunners' 3-1 Champions League play-off victory over Celtic at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night and has been the subject of intense scrutiny ever since.

Scottish FA chief executive Gordon Smith and Celtic player Massimo Donati both urged European football's governing body to take action against Eduardo after the match and on Friday morning UEFA charged the 26-year-old with "deceiving the referee".

Eduardo could be handed a two-match suspension under UEFA rules and Wenger said: "I find it a complete disgrace and unacceptable. We won't accept the way we have been treated in this case for two reasons. I believe that you can debate whether it was a penalty or not. For me it's a witch-hunt that we see and not an objective judgement of a case.

"This charge implies there was intent and a desire to cheat the referee. Having watched the pictures again there was nothing conclusive. It singles out a player in Europe to be a cheat and that is not acceptable. UEFA has taken action that is not defendable."

If Eduardo is banned he would miss Arsenal's Champions League clash away at Standard Liege on September 16 and the home match with Olympiakos on September 29.

UEFA said in a statement: "Having studied video evidence of the incident in question, the UEFA disciplinary inspector decided to charge the player concerned. The UEFA control and disciplinary body will examine the case on September 1."

The charge is based on Article 10, paragraph 1c of the UEFA disciplinary regulations (misconduct of players) which states: "Players may be suspended for two competition matches, or for a specified period, for acting with the obvious intent to cause any match official to make an incorrect decision or supporting his error of judgment and thereby causing him to make an incorrect decision."

Arsenal's comprehensive 5-1 aggregate win over Celtic was marred when Eduardo, making only his second start of the season for the Gunners, fell to the ground as Bhoys goalkeeper Artur Boruc made a challenge in the 28th minute.

The simulation conned Spanish referee Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez and the striker scored from the penalty spot to open the scoring in the second leg match.

Smith waded into the debate to point out that the SFA had used retrospective punishment to sanction Rangers striker Kyle Lafferty, who feigned being headbutted by Aberdeen defender Charlie Mulgrew during an SPL game in May and urged UEFA to do the same with Eduardo.

"We have shown the courage to use retrospective punishment when it comes to simulation and I would urge UEFA to do so in this instance. Everything that can be done to stamp it out must be done - starting right now," said Smith.

"Since I came into this post, I have raised the issue of simulation time and time again - both here in Scotland and with FIFA and UEFA. I don't think that I have received enough support in my efforts to eradicate what I believe to be one of the most serious threats to the integrity of football. Last night showed exactly why we must take this issue seriously.

"Everyone in football has a responsibility to set the right example to our youngsters. We can talk all we want about fair play campaigns, but taking action would be a much more powerful deterrent and would send the right message to players everywhere.

"Eduardo is a terrific player who has battled back from a serious injury to resume playing at the highest level. However, last night he showed disrespect to the game by his actions in winning a penalty against Celtic."

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