Graham Potter defends Joao Felix after Chelsea’s new boy was sent off on his debut,


Graham Potter defends Joao Felix after Chelsea’s new boy was sent off on his debut for a reckless challenge, insisting it was a ‘forward’s tackle’ with no malice – and that his performance was ‘really good’ until then

Joao Felix was sent off less than an hour into his Chelsea debut as the season went from bad to worse for Graham Potter at Fulham.

Felix, signed on loan from Atletico Madrid at a cost of £15million in fees and wages, was thrown straight in after only one training session with his new teammates.

He sparkled in the first half but saw red, early in the second, for an ugly lunging, studs-up late tackle on Kenny Tete, who escaped without injury.

 Chelsea boss Graham Potter defended Blues new boy Joao Felix after his red card on debut

Chelsea's new signing dived in after a poor touch and caught Tete above the shin

Felix was sent off in his first game for Chelsea after a reckless lunge on Fulham’s Kenny Tete 

‘A forward’s tackle,’ said Blues boss Potter.

‘It didn’t feel like an emotional one. It was miscontrolled, and a football action that can happen with the speed of the Premier League. He didn’t go to hurt anybody. He didn’t lose his head.

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‘They’re all learning moments. Joao is a young player, top player, and you see his qualities. There was no malice in it at all but I understand why it was a red. It was a little bit high and the referee has decision to make.

‘It’s really frustrating, incredibly challenging and I feel for the supporters. It is another blow the hits keep coming at the moment. He was really good you could see his quality in the game so to lose Joao for three matches is really disappointing.’

Referee David Coote wasted no time in brandishing the red card for the dangerous challenge

Referee David Coote wasted no time in brandishing the red card for the dangerous challenge

Under-pressure Blues boss Potter also bemoaned his side's defending as they lost again

Under-pressure Blues boss Potter also bemoaned his side’s defending as they lost again

The game was poised at 1-1 when Felix was dismissed. Willian, Fulham’s former Chelsea winger, gave the home side the lead with a deflected shot in the first half before an equaliser, forced in by Kalidou Kouliably, early in the second half, after a free-kick by Mason Mount hit a post.

Carlos Vinicius scored the winner, his first goal for Fulham after Kepa Arrizabalaga misjudged a cross.

‘A soft goal,’ said Potter. ‘I think we controlled the game early, won the ball back high created some opportunities maybe missed the last pass. We made a couple of mistakes for their goal.

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‘Second-half I think we responded well and then the red card changes the game. Makes it a little more difficult for us, I thought the application when we went down to 10 was really good. I’m disappointed with the goal because I think we could do better and that is what cost us.’

It was a disastrous ending to Felix's debut after he had been impressive against Fulham

It was a disastrous ending to Felix’s debut after he had been impressive against Fulham 

Former Chelsea star Willian refused to celebrate after scoring but hailed a special night

Former Chelsea star Willian refused to celebrate after scoring but hailed a special night 

Chelsea also lost Dennis Zakaria with a thigh injury and, with the pressure on, face Crystal Palace at home on Sunday. ‘We have got to keep working there is no other solutions,’ Potter added. ‘You have to keep working stay together and try to get the three points.’

Fulham fans made no attempt to hide their delight. Having lived in the shadow of Chelsea’s success for two decades, they crowed, ‘Stamford Bridge is falling down’ before moving through their songs of celebration.

‘It was a special night for us,’ said Willian. ‘We deserved the win. We knew how hard it is to play against Chelsea. They are in a difficult situation but they are a good team. I had an amazing seven years at Chelsea. I have huge respect for the players and the club but now I play for Fulham, I have to do my best.’

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Marco Silva’s team moved into sixth, three points ahead of Liverpool and six clear of Chelsea.

‘The last couple of games we’ve had to show a little bit more fight, a little bit more grit,’ said centre-half Tim Ream. ‘Guys are stepping up and scoring. There are goals in the team. We’re not a one trick pony. It is what it is. It’s a consequence of all the hard working we’re doing, and the togetherness of the guys in the club.’

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