Manchester City manager Mark Hughes insists Shaun Wright-Phillips is unfortunate to be handed a three-match ban by the Football Association.
The former Chelsea star was given the suspension after aiming a kick at Stoke City's Rory Delap.
The Potters player was sent off for kicking the ball from point-blank range at Wright-Phillips as he lay on the ground, but the retaliatory kick went unpunished by referee Martin Atkinson.
The FA decided to punish Wright-Phillips retrospectively after viewing television evidence of the incident, to Hughes' annoyance.
He told the club's official website: "We admitted at the time that there was a reaction, but there were reasons why Shaun reacted like he did.
"We hoped that there would have been a little bit of leeway where the decision-makers were concerned but, unfortunately, I think the FA have to go by the letter of the law.
"They will support the referee's report, so unfortunately we will miss Shaun for the same length of time that Stoke will be without Rory Delap. That doesn't seem correct in my view, but that's where we are.
"There will always be grey areas open to debate, but I just think Shaun's case should have been judged on its own merits. Shaun has been really hard done by because of the severity of the punishment.
"It's a blow because he's been playing really well. He has such a positive impact, and his work-rate is such that he always causes a threat to teams. But there is nothing we can do now - we just have to get on with it."