Wed, Oct 18, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Chelsea 'keeper Petr Cech warned against early return

AFP , LONDON

Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech has been told he must take an extended break from soccer after surgery on a depressed fracture of his skull and warned that a premature return could be fatal.

The Czech international was still in hospital on Monday after undergoing surgery to repair damage caused in a collision with Reading's Stephen Hunt during an English Premiership match on Saturday.

However, later on Monday Chelsea -- whose squad visited the goalkeeper in hospital on Monday -- issued a statement saying that he was fully conscious and his condition was improving.

"Chelsea Football Club is pleased to confirm that Petr Cech's condition is improving," read the statement. "He is now fully conscious following the operation and the effects of the anesthetic. He is communicating and talking with his wife Martina as well as the Chelsea and hospital medical teams who have now given permission for visitors."

Hunt's knee connected with the goalkeeper in the first minute of the match after Cech had come out of his goalmouth to gather the ball at the feet of an opponent moving at full pace.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho claimed after the match that Hunt had gone into the challenge "with intent," and the London club have voiced their concerns over the challenge in a letter to the soccer Association.

But Hunt insisted again on Monday that the contact with Cech had been accidental.

"I can guarantee that I did not attempt to injure Petr, and I'm very upset that the collision has resulted in such a bad injury," the Irishman said.

The FA was reviewing video footage of the incident but any action against Hunt is unlikely because of the difficulty of proving intent and the fact that most observers have judged that the clash was made inevitable by the momentum of the two players.

Mike Riley, the referee at the match, could however find himself in the disciplinary spotlight. The official appeared to under-estimate the seriousness of the injury suffered by Cech, 24, and ordered him to crawl off the pitch before he could receive treatment.

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