Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy has admitted his Senegal team-mate Sadio Mane should have been sent off in the 2-2 draw with Liverpool on Sunday — hours before jetting off together on international duty.
The incident occurred just six seconds into the match when Mane jumped to meet a high pass from Jordan Henderson from the kick-off.
While Mane had his eyes fixated on the ball, the winger was adjudged to have caught Cesar Azpilicueta with his elbow as they competed for the ball.
Referee Anthony Taylor brandished only a yellow card to the 29-year-old, despite leaving Azpilicueta sporting a bruised eye socket in the aftermath of the collision.
The Spaniard was furious with the decision and Mane only rubbed more salt into the wound when he expertly rounded Mendy to open the scoring.
Mohamed Salah doubled their lead before Chelsea mounted a fightback through Mateo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic as the teams shared the spoils at Stamford Bridge.
Blues captain Azpilicueta claimed in his post-match interview that Mane should have seen red, describing the decision as a “joke”, and was supported by his manager Thomas Tuchel.
And Mendy, who pulled off a number of fine saves for the Blues, agreed with his Chelsea team-mate that Mane deserved to be dismissed.
“Sadio is my brother, my compatriot,” he told French outlet RMC Sport. “But he should not have stayed on the pitch after one minute.”
Mendy had an instant opportunity to discuss his thoughts with Mane as they set off for international duty straight after the game at Stamford Bridge.
The pair were included in Senegal’s 27-man squad for the Africa Cup of Nations, which begins on January 9 and is set to keep them out of Premier League action for up to five games.
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Mendy uploaded an image to his official Instagram account showing the pair side by side on a private jet as they flew to Cameroon.
But the conversation could soon turn more awkward if Mane discovers what the Blues stopper had to say about the incident.
The Premier League clarified that the decision was made by VAR not to send off Mane as it was “reckless”, but not classed as violent conduct, an offence that warrants a straight red card.
Still, Chelsea were aggrieved that the Reds forward was not shown a red card, which if given would have gone down as the quickest red card in a match in Premier League history.
Azpilicueta told Sky Sports after the game: “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.
“He doesn’t see the ball, he just wants to lead with the elbow. I honestly don’t understand it.”
German boss Tuchel agreed, adding: “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.”
Chelsea stay a point ahead of Liverpool in second after the draw, but Jurgen Klopp’s side have a game in hand as they attempt to close the 11-point gap to leaders Manchester City.