Although the match ended in defeat, a dogged Chelsea side played very well during Sunday’s Carabao Cup final, but Maurizio Sarri and his men grabbed the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Prior to the match, many had expected a repeat of the Manchester City mauling that happened two weeks earlier in the premier league where Chelsea found themselves 4-0 down before half time, a game which later ended in six un replied goals against the Londoners.
It was therefore with dread and a bit of foreboding that Chelsea fans looked forward to yet another encounter against the current champions of England.
Chelsea manager, Maurizio Sarri has recently come under attack by the fans and the media alike for his style of play as it is often deemed too predictable, inflexible and just not suited to the personnel he has at his disposal. A mixture of results and poor showing has seen him rumoured to be walking on thin ice with the owner and the board at the club, putting his job under threat. Well known for their coach-sacking culture, the Chelsea boss knows it’s either he starts getting the desired results or he faces the sack by the club hierarchy.
It was probably with that in mind that Sarri and his men rose to the occasion as they matched the current cup holders strength for strength in every aspect of the game.
Hazard deployed to the role of a false 9 raised a few eyebrows pre-match given that the manager had two fit strikers in loan acquisition, Gonzalo Higuain and Olivier Giroud on the bench. But the Belgian international gave Chelsea the room to be compact and more coordinated defensively against a free-scoring Manchester side. It was safe to say Sarri’s game plan worked as Chelsea successfully sucked up the pressure and stifled the attacks made by the Citizens.
Although there were notable controversial moments in real time such as when Aguero’s goal was ruled out as he was adjudged to be offside by VAR and when a through on goal Hazard was also flagged offside by the slightest of margins by the fourth official. The match however dragged on till extra-time when neither team could break down the other.
But perhaps the most controversial moment of the game came towards the end of extra-time when Chelsea goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga blatantly refused to be subbed off even after his number had been shown in the substitution board and alternate keeper Willy Caballero was waiting at the touchline to take his place.
Chelsea boss Sarri was visibly furious at what appeared to be complete insubordination by the club’s record signing. Replays show that Sarri pulled at his jacket in frustration, punched the air and was gesticulating animatedly on the touchline. A few moments later, the Italian was seen walking toward the exit doors, away from the match and possibly his job but seemed to reconsider in the last moment and returned to the dugout taking his seat next to assistant coach Gianfranco Zola.
Play continued and the game went into penalties and despite saving a penalty from Manchester City forward Sané, misses from David Luiz and summer signing Jorginho ultimately proved costly as City went on to win the shootout through Raheem Sterling’s decisive spot kick.
In the post-match analysis however, Sarri sought to play down the earlier incident by writing it off as a ‘big misunderstanding’. He told reporters that he wanted the player substituted because he thought he had cramps. He also said Kepa was right to continue but the way he went about it was wrong, adding that he would have a word with the player.
The player himself has also sought to clarify the incident on Twitter, echoing his manager’s insistence on it being nothing but a misunderstanding.
The Chelsea goalkeeper posted this on his twitter handle via @kepa_46:
Chelsea fans what do you think about the incident? Should there be disciplinary measures for Kepa or is all forgiven? Let us know in the comment section!
Cover image: @skysports on twitter
Photo Credit: Instagram; @chelseafc, @mancity
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