MANCHESTER: Mark Hughes has appealed for leniency for his forward Emmanuel Adebayor, who is likely to be the subject of FA disciplinary action following Manchester City's 4-2 victory over the Togo forward's former club Arsenal.
Adebayor had already appeared to stamp on the face of former team mate Robin van Persie when he scored a crucial third goal ten minutes from time.
In the celebration that followed, he sprinted the entire length of the field and gestured in front of the Arsenal supporters who threw missiles onto the field and tried to storm their way past stewards and police to get at their former player.
Hughes claimed not to have seen the van Persie incident and, citing the fact that his player issued a swift apology, added that he hoped the FA would not punish him for the provocative celebration.
Hughes said: "People have asked me about the stamp but I haven?t seen it so I can't really comment but Adie understands that celebrating like that was the wrong thing to do.
"He's an emotional guy and it was an emotional moment for him. I think he just wanted to enjoy the moment with the fans and he knew Arsenal fans were in the vicinity so it was the wrong thing to do.
"You need to cut him a bit of slack, given what he has been through the last 18 months or so. I've tried to explain the situation, how it developed, how it happened, I've no idea if the FA will do anything."
Van Persie, however, was furious with Adebayor, accusing his former teammate of deliberately trying to hurt him.
"I am sad and disappointed by Emmanuel Adebayor's mindless and malicious stamp on me during the match," said the Dutchman.
"We are both professional footballers and I know that the game is physical. I, too, have made hard and sometimes mis-timed challenges but never with the intention of hurting an opponent. He set out to hurt me today.
"I feel lucky that I have not suffered a greater injury. The contact was only centimetres from my eye. I have not received an apology from him, there were no words exchanged afterwards. He had his own agenda today and that is bad for football."
Adebayor himself, who was often criticised by Arsenal supporters and faced major adverse publicity from within the Emirates Stadium after his 25-million-pound summer move to City, was quick to issue an apology.
He said: "I'm very sorry for all this. Sometimes the emotion takes over and that's what happened.
"I was very happy to score the goal. Before the game people have been saying and writing things about me and emotion took over. People who love me and know me know how I behave."
Hughes, meanwhile, was hopeful that his team?s impressive performance would not be overshadowed by events involving his star player.
"Obviously we?re hopeful that the game itself will be the shining light rather than any other incidents people feel they need to highlight," he said.
"We don?t want that to overshadow what has been an outstanding game."
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, true to type, claimed he had not seen the challenge by Adebayor on van Persie, commenting: "I?ve heard about it but I haven?t seen the incident again and I will have to do that."
And the losing manager was equally disinterested in examining how his former forward celebrated his goal.
"It's not worth commenting on," he said. "I can't control or influence his behaviour."
Beyond the controversies, the afternoon was a major blow for the visitors who lost their last league outing, a few miles across the city at Manchester United in similar circumstances.
Not even the promising return of Tomas Rosicky, sidelined since January 2008 through injury, could conceal the fact that Arsenal?s title hopes have taken a severe battering over the past two weeks.
"I don't know about the significance of the result but we go away with the same disappointment we felt at Old Trafford," said Wenger.
"They negotiated better the turning points of the game and we were shaky in defence. We always looked in control in the second half but when you concede four goals, when you look at the amount of possession we had and the efforts we had, this is very difficult to take.
"The good thing for us was having Rosicky back. He is a top class player but because of his injury situation I'm always cautious when talking about him and don't want to put him under any pressure."