By Keith Hackett

15th Nov, 2021 | 7:16pm

Ex-Premier League referee lays down the law as Ibrahimovic and Chelsea star in 'unsporting' controversy

Zlatan Ibrahimovic should have been shown a yellow card for his challenge on Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta while on international duty, according to Keith Hackett.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the ex-Fifa and Premier League referee admitted it would have been harsh to send off Ibrahimovic for smashing into Azpilicueta.

Sweden were chasing a late goal against Spain in their crunch World Cup qualifier on Sunday night.

Ibrahimovic was introduced as a late substitute before flooring Azpilicueta with an elbow into his back.

It initially appeared he had avoided a yellow card but it was subsequently confirmed he had been cautioned.

It was his second booking of the group stages and that means he will miss Sweden’s playoff game.

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Spain finished the game 1-0 winners as they secured their place in next year’s World Cup in Qatar.

“Zlatan’s just leaning in,” Hackett told Football Insider correspondent Connor Whitley.

“That is an offence. It’s a yellow card, unsporting behaviour.

“It’ll be harsh to give a red, it’s certainly a yellow. Has the elbow caught the opponent’s face? No, I’d give a yellow card.

“It’s how you view it but the way I view it, I think that’s a yellow card.”

Azpilicueta took to Twitter after the game to confirm he was “all good” after the challenge.

The defender will now return to London to prepare for Chelsea’s game at Leicester City at the weekend.

The 32-year-old won his 36th Spain cap in the victory over Sweden in Seville.

In other news, a Chelsea star could have had ‘sleepless nights’ and ‘weight loss’ amid surgery news.