Ex-PL ref delivers verdict on Sadio Mane flashpoint during Chelsea v Liverpool

Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher has said that Sadio Mane did not deserve a red card in the opening seconds of Liverpool's 2-2 draw with Chelsea on Sunday afternoon.

The winger was part of a very early flashpoint in the game at Stamford Bridge as the first aerial challenge of the match saw his arm clash with Cesar Azpilicueta's face, sending the Spaniard tumbling to the turf holding his face.

Indeed, it was a moment that incensed Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel and also left Blues players asking for a red card for the Liverpool winger, but Gallagher believes that the yellow he instead received was the right course of action:

"I think it's a yellow card," he said via Sky Sports.

"It's not a wise challenge, but he leads with his forearm. He is using that to get up as leverage to get off the ground. I don't think he uses that as a weapon, and he certainly doesn't hit him with the elbow. He does catch him with the forearm.

"The ball isn't near him but the ball is in air for both players to challenge and if you look at Mane, he is always looking in the air. He doesn't size up Azpilicueta and he doesn't hit him with full force. All in all, I'd say reckless challenge, but not dangerous."

As mentioned, those in the Blues' camp saw it a little different:

"It's a clear red," said Azpilicueta to Sky. "I watched the replay but I didn't need this because live I knew it was a red."

"In the first game we got the red card and the referee was so quick to give the red card," Tuchel told the BBC meanwhile.

"They did not check it today. I hate to say it normally as I don't like a red card early in the game, it can kill it - and Sadio Mane should always be on the pitch because he is a brilliant player and a good guy - but it is a red card."

Anfield Watch Verdict

A contentious start to the game that split the Sky Sports pundits in the studio as well but, ultimately, Mane remained on the pitch and would open the scoring not long later after a mistake in the Chelsea defence.

Mane now heads to AFCON to play for Senegal and we wish him all the best.

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