Chelsea: Joao Felix’s red card made for a disastrous start to the desperate loan spell

MATT BARLOW: Joao Felix’s red card made for a disastrous start to a desperate loan at Chelsea… but by then he was all silky and unsulky, looking fresh and hungry, relieved of Diego Simeone’s demands

There was an air of desperation at Chelsea’s pursuit of Joao Felix.

As if they signed him because like others they could charge an investment of around £15m in fees and wages for just six months of service from a young player with a reputation for sulking.

“Not a normal loan,” remarked Fulham manager Marco Silva ahead of Thursday night’s game, in which the Cottagers won 2-1. Nevertheless, Chelsea has long ceased to act as a normal club.

New Chelsea striker Joao Felix's red card made for a disastrous start to a desperate loan spell

New Chelsea striker Joao Felix’s red card made for a disastrous start to a desperate loan spell

The Portugal star was shown his marching orders for a poor tackle on Fulham's Kenny Tete

The Portugal star was shown his marching orders for a poor tackle on Fulham’s Kenny Tete

Felix's moment of madness came after impressing on his debut for the Blues

Felix’s moment of madness came after impressing on his debut for the Blues

They are also not in a normal position for them to initiate a major change of direction as the man chosen to lead the adventure is already under pressure and languishing on the turn with fans in midfield.

When Felix joined Graham Potter’s side at Fulham straight after having only trained once with his new team since arriving from Atletico Madrid, it seemed like another step in a hurry.

Certainly not one that would have been made if Chelsea had settled down and ticked well.

When he was sent off early in the second half after less than an hour of play for a breakneck tackle on Kenny Tete, eager to impress, having thrown a youngster with a point right in seemed like a terrible decision to prove themselves in the heat of a Premier League derby against in-form opponents.

Until then, however, the 23-year-old was all silk and no sulking. Free to roam, he flared into gaps left and right, dodging between Fulham’s defensive lines.

Pressured Blues boss Graham Potter saw his side beaten 2-1 in Thursday's derby

Pressured Blues boss Graham Potter saw his side beaten 2-1 in Thursday’s derby

His exemplary control, balance and speed earned him two yellow cards in the early minutes. Chelsea supporters were quick to get on board.

The Portugal international slipped away from Tim Ream to create the first chance of the game for teenager Lewis Hall and his name rang out from the Putney End. The home fans were less impressed.

They soon realized it didn’t take much to knock Felix down and were horrified to find referee David Coote blindsided to what they thought was obvious.

“What a waste of money,” they cried when he volleyed in, unaware he was offside, and were delighted at the red card, but overall Felix looked fresh and hungry.

Free from Diego Simeone’s demands and keen to remind Atletico why they paid £114m for him from Benfica as a teenager.

Before that, however, he looked fresh and hungry, relieved of Diego Simeone's demands

Before that, however, he looked fresh and hungry, relieved of Diego Simeone’s demands

His sheer quality was encapsulated in a flash of first-half brilliance. He spun away from Tosin Adarabioyo with a flick through his own legs and accelerated clearly to unleash a dangerous counterattack.

“There’s no doubting his ability,” Joe Cole said on BT Sport. “I think he will thrive here. He’s a great player. He’s a technician. It will suit Potter’s expansive style.’

all true. They’ll be hugging him at Stamford Bridge as he adds another dimension to their attacking options, but the red card means he’ll miss the next three games – against Crystal Palace, Liverpool and again Fulham – through suspension.

On a pound-per-game basis, it’s going to be even more expensive. He’s also putting more pressure on Potter, whose squad is stretched with injuries and really can’t buy a break.

For all those delightful early touches, it’s a disastrous start to a desperate loan spell.

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Maureen Mackey

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