JUAN MATA has sprung to the defence of Fernando Torres, insisting his Chelsea team-mate is not a dirty player despite his sending off against Tottenham.
Chelsea had to play the last 10 minutes of their 1-1 draw against Tottenham with 10 players after Torres picked up two controversial yellow cards.
Torres' second booking – for an aerial collision with Jan Vertonghen – looked harsh, but he could well have seen a straight red for his first yellow.
The Spain striker grabbed Vertonghen by the face and scratched him after becoming annoyed at the Belgian's theatrical fall.
Mata denied Torres meant to cause harm in either incident, however.
"I don't know (about the red card) but Fernando is not a player who goes to hurt," Mata said.
Tottenham controlled the first half of a hot-tempered 'master versus apprentice' clash between the teams of Jose Mourinho and Andre Villas-Boas.
The home side took the lead through Gylfi Sigurdsson early on, and had they took their chances, they could have been 3-0 up by the break.
But Mata's introduction brought Chelsea back in to the game.
The Spaniard has found himself out of favour under Mourinho despite being the club's player of the year last season.
Mata has started just two Premier League games this term, but gave his manager a timely reminder of his talents on Saturday, sending over a fine free-kick which John Terry buried past Hugo Lloris.
Mourinho confirmed Mata would be rewarded with a start against Steaua Bucharest tomorrow and the player himself has vowed to keep working hard to stay in the manager's favour.
"Obviously 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, and I think against Tottenham I did that," Mata said.
"We needed to improve and we tried to, and when I came on 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. Last season we won here and this season we wanted to win again, it wasn't possible but the team showed that we can fight until the end."
Mourinho kept his composure when Terry's goal went in, but the Chelsea captain could not contain himself, cupping an ear in the direction of the home fans before celebrating in front of the travelling support.
Spurs fans have given Terry plenty of abuse during his 16-year professional career, so scoring his first goal at White Hart Lane was a particularly pleasurable experience for the skipper.
"I am absolutely delighted. I took a bit of stick here over the last few years so that's for the fans who have supported me over the years," Terry said.
After cooling down following his rant against Vertonghen – Mourinho questioned the Belgian's actions after the incident which saw Torres sent off – the Portuguese reflected on a satisfactory point against a team he thinks will be challenging for the title come the end of May.
"It has been a difficult start but we are getting there," said Mourinho.