Liverpool's Javier Mascherano, centre, is restrained
by manager Rafa Benitez [AFP]
Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano could face a lengthy ban after being sent off against Manchester United for dissent, a Football Association (FA) spokesman said on Monday.

Mascherano, already on one yellow card, protested to referee Steve Bennett over his booking of team mate Fernando Torres only to be shown a second yellow himself and then the red just before halftime with Liverpool losing 1-0.

The Argentina international then went from a show of bemused surprise to outright anger and tried to continue his protest but was forcibly ushered from the field by Liverpool players and staff and calmed down by manager Rafa Benitez.

The dismissal carries an automatic one-match suspension but the FA can sanction Mascherano further for his refusal to leave the pitch immediately after being sent off.

"When the player refuses to leave the field promptly, we do have mechanisms (for further punishment)," FA press officer Andrin Cooper said.

"We can act on anything the referee has not seen or is outside his jurisdiction," he added of FA powers to view incidents further.

"The referee has done all he can under the laws (of the game) up to that point," Cooper said, referring to the sending off.

"Any subsequent action is outside the referee's jurisdiction.

"(Further action) is a possibility but we won't be able to say anything about that until tomorrow (Tuesday)."

'I did not confront him'

Mascherano said on Monday that he still did not understand why he had been shown a red card.

"I do not know why I was sent off," he was quoted as telling the Liverpool Echo.

"I asked the referee what was happening. I did not swear, I was not aggressive and I did not confront him.

"So when he showed me the second yellow card and sent me off I could not believe it."

United won the match at Old Trafford 3-0, opening a five-point lead in the title race after Arsenal's 2-1 defeat at Chelsea, who leapt over the Gunners into second place.

Mascherano could not have chosen a worse week to get in a referee's bad books, and Bennett's in particular, with the FA calling for a clampdown on dissent.

At White Hart Lane in midweek, Chelsea defender Ashley Cole was booked for a bad foul on Tottenham Hotspur's Alan Hutton but contemptuously turned his back on referee Mike Riley when asked for his name and could have been sent off.

Bennett was the fourth official at that match and, like Riley, was criticised by the media for not being harsher on Cole.

Source: Agencies