Cesar Azpilicueta says Liverpool forward Sadio Mane should have been sent off for catching the Chelsea captain in the face just six seconds into the 2-2 draw on Sunday.
Mane was shown a yellow card by referee Anthony Taylor after his arm struck the Blues defender as they attempted to jump for a header at Stamford Bridge.
Forward Mane went on to score the opening goal following a mistake from Trevoh Chalobah and Mohamed Salah put the Reds 2-0 up in the Premier League battle between second and third.
Chelsea were back on level terms just before half-time following two goals in the space of four minutes, Mateo Kovacic reducing the deficit with a sublime volley and Christian Pulisic equalising.
Neither side could conjure up a winner in a pulsating contest, so Manchester City hold a 10-point lead over the Blues and Liverpool are a further point adrift with a game in hand.
Azpilicueta is in no doubt Mane was fortunate not to be given his marching orders in what was his last game before departing for Africa Cup of Nations duty.
The defender told Sky Sports: “A clear red. I don’t mind if it is five seconds into the game, it is a red. I don’t understand – we have had these kind of decisions the other day.
“It is a clear red card. We are getting these decisions against us and it can change the way of the game.
“I watched the replay but I didn’t need this because live I knew it was a red.
“We had to fight our way back. We left everything on the pitch but it was not enough.
“Both teams had their moments. When they were 2-0 up they think they have a clear chance to score a third and maybe that could kill the game but after that we played well.
“We were 2-0 down, we fought hard to come back. We wanted more of course. We never lost the trust. We felt in the second half we could push for the third goal but we didn’t score.”
15 – Since the start of the 2006-07 season (when we have exact times), Sadio Mané’s booking after 15 seconds against Chelsea is the earliest recorded in a Premier League game. Overzealous.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 2, 2022
Azpilicueta acknowledges it was a great day for reigning champions City as their two nearest rivals slipped up again.
He added: “They are the ones at the top. The more points we are behind the happier they will be. They have been setting the standards really high.
“It was up to us to close the gap. We know they are a quality team – they have been playing together for a while. We are on our way but until now we didn’t reach that level of consistency that would keep us at the top.”
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