CHELSEA midfielder Juan Mata has leapt to the defence of team-mate Fernando Torres, following a fiery display in the fiercely contested London derby with Tottenham on Saturday.
The Spain striker was sent off 81 minutes into the 1-1 draw following an aerial collision with defender Jan Vertonghen, though was fortunate to have escaped a red card earlier in the game having scratched the same player’s cheek, an incident which may still incur retrospective punishment from the Football Association.
The FA may also look into comments made afterwards by Blues boss Jose Mourinho who said referee Mike Dean “made a huge mistake” in showing Torres a second yellow card and that Vertonghen was a “disgrace” for holding his face after minimal contact and deserved a “three-match ban”.
Torres, sent off for the third time in his Chelsea career, is set to miss Sunday’s trip to Norwich, but Mata insists he is not a malicious player and was pleased his team were able to hold on for a point at White Hart Lane after being reduced to 10 men.
“I don’t know [about the red card] but Fernando is not a player who goes to hurt,” said Mata.
“At the end we played 10 minutes with 10 players which is very difficult against Tottenham, but we kept compact and we fought until the end to get this point.
“It was a tough game, so I think a point is not bad from here and maybe they played better the first half and we played better the second half.”
Mata has made only two Premier League starts so far this season and was linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge last month, with Tottenham among his suitors, having been relegated from the club’s player of the year under previous manager Rafael Benitez to the substitute’s bench this term.
However, Mata was influential in Chelsea overturning Spurs’s first-half advantage after replacing John Obi Mikel at the interval, setting up defender John Terry’s equaliser to cancel out Gylfi Sigurdsson’s strike.
Mourinho has already declared his intention to name Mata in his starting line-up for tomorrow’s Champions League trip to Steaua Bucharest where they will hope to pick up vital points following their surprise opening group stage defeat to Swiss side Basel earlier this month.
But Mata does not see tomorrow’s game as an opportunity to convince Mourinho of his talents and is prepared to be patient in his pursuit of more playing time.
“Everyone wants to play, but I am a professional, I respect all of my team-mates and what I want to do is enjoy it on the pitch,” he added.
“When I came on [against Spurs] I just tried to give my best for the team. It is what I did since I came and it is what I am going to do until the end.
“I am happy with the second half. It wasn’t enough to win, but the team showed we can fight until the end.”