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Ballack apologises for red card foul

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, Sep 17 (Reuters) Chelsea's Germany captain Michael Ballack apologised to Liverpool's Mohamed Sissoko today after he stamped on the Mali midfielder's leg and was sent off during a fiery Premier League match.

Ballack was shown the first straight red card of his career by referee Mike Riley for violent conduct six minutes into the second half.

He will miss the next three games.

The Chelsea midfielder waited outside the Liverpool dressing room to offer his apologies after the game.

''It's a bad situation for me,'' a softly spoken Ballack said.

''It is the first straight red in my career.

''I didn't mean to injure him. I've just seen him now and I've said sorry,'' he added.

''In the second half these situations can happen. It was bad for me. The team worked very hard after this and we went on to win the game.'' His manager Jose Mourinho said he could not be angry because it was his first direct red in a long career, a record he described as ''fantastic''.

Mourinho and his disappointed opposite number Rafael Benitez agreed the card was merited.

''It was a deserved red card,'' Mourinho said. ''He told me he did not go in to hurt the guy but the rules are clear,'' the Portuguese coach said.

Both also suggested Sissoko might have been sent off earlier when he got away without a second booking for a foul on Frank Lampard.

RUGGED RESISTANCE Mourinho said he was delighted with his team's rugged second half performance against the odds and a marauding Liverpool attack.

''It was a fantastic goal, a fantastic victory, incredible spirit and unbelievable desire,'' Mourinho said.

Didier Drobga scored just before the break, spinning to turn in a Lampard pass with balletic grace.

''For the spirit I think we deserved the three points,'' Mourinho said.

Mourinho's other high-profile, close-season signing Andriy Shevchenko once again failed to shine.

Watched by Tiger Woods whom he met earlier this week at Wentworth, Shevchenko, who has scored only twice since his transfer, looked out of step and isolated.

Mourinho said he was confident the striker would soon start scoring as he had done for AC Milan. ''I want more from him. He wants more from himself. He will score goals.'' It was the 12th meeting between the teams since Mourinho and Benitez took charge in 2004 and Chelsea's sixth victory, with three draws. Chelsea have won all Premier League encounters and Sunday's was their 11th home win in a row in all competitions -- a club record.

Benitez could only rue missed opportunities with Chelsea's goal battered in the second half and Petr Cech keeping Dirk Kuyt, Steven Gerrard, Craig Bellamy and Jermaine Pennant at bay.

''The positive thing is the team is improving and creating more chances...I think we deserved more,'' Benitez said.

REUTERS SAM RAI2236

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