Premier League giants Chelsea and Liverpool both dealt a significant blow in the title race as they played out a thrilling 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge on Sunday night. The stalemate left second-placed hosts 10 points behind league leader Manchester City, with the Reds point further back having played a game less than both their title contenders.
Notably, all four goals came in the first half, with Sadio Mane and Mohammed Salah extending Liverpool’s lead with a sublime finish. The hosts stormed back into the game, thanks to Mateo Kovacic’s stunner and followed by Christian Pulisic’s equaliser just before half-time.
The high-octane game was not bereft of drama. Tempers rose in Blues’ camp after Mane escaped an early red-card for an elbow attempt on Cesar Azpilicueta. The Reds’ forward was booked in the game’s first minute after his arm caught the defender in the face, but Mane escaped with only a yellow card and subsequently netted the opener at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues’ captain was frustrated with the lenient decision by the referee and said Liverpool’s Senegalese forward should have been given the marching orders.
“It’s a clear red. I don’t mind if it’s five seconds into the game, it’s the first action and it’s a clear red,” Goal.com quoted Azpilicueta speaking to Sky Sports after the full-time whistle.
“He (Mane) doesn’t see the ball, he just wants to lead with the elbow. I honestly don’t understand it,” he added. “We’ve had these types of decisions recently. The other day, we had two penalties where VAR wasn’t used,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel agreed with his defender and added, “I am not a friend of early red cards. I hate to say it because I love Mane and he is a nice guy and top player, but it is a red card.
With a yellow card received just in 20-seconds, Mane became the fastest-booked player in the history of the competition since the 2006-07 season. Had he received the red-card, the Senegalese international would have made history with the fastest Premier League booking of all-time.