A dull 120 minutes at Wembley ended in bedlam.
Kepa Arrizabalaga sensationally shut down Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri’s calls for him to be substituted in the dying embers of Sunday’s League Cup final, then failed to be the hero in the penalty shootout as Manchester City triumphed 4-3 on spot kicks.
Raheem Sterling struck the decisive penalty, sending the disgraced Kepa the wrong way with an emphatic effort into the top corner.
When Kepa refused to be withdrawn by Sarri, an otherwise forgettable final had a remarkable moment. Deputy ‘keeper Willy Caballero, who won Manchester City the League Cup with his athleticism and anticipation in a shootout against Liverpool in 2016, must be thinking what might have been. He should’ve been between the sticks for the shootout.
Where do Chelsea go from here? An embattled gaffer undermined by a clear breach of discipline from his goalkeeper. The Europa League is their single remaining chance of silverware this season.
The final was largely uneventful prior to the Kepa controversy. But if there was a team that looked likeliest to score, it was the tactically disciplined Chelsea. Eden Hazard was exceptional, completing each of his eight take-ons and constantly looking to make inroads behind Vincent Kompany when the City captain was brought on at halftime.
N’Golo Kante cleared the bar with the game’s best chance in the 66th minute. Willian hacked a clearance down the left, where Hazard collected, jinked past Kompany, and cut the ball back to his wasteful teammate.
Following Kepa and Sarri’s dispute at the end of extra time, Jorginho began the shootout with a tame penalty that was easily stopped by Ederson. Ilkay Gundogan and Cesar Azpilicueta then both scored, before Sergio Aguero’s effort slipped through Kepa’s fingers.
Emerson converted, and then Kepa was jubilant when his save on Leroy Sane leveled the shootout at 2-2. David Luiz ultimately lost it for Chelsea, when his shot from 12 yards hit the post and was followed by successful penalties from Bernardo Silva, Eden Hazard and, crucially, Sterling.
It’s a fourth League Cup final victory in six years for Manchester City, but the Kepa storyline dominates for now.
“Kepa should never play for Chelsea again,” ex-Blues striker Chris Sutton concluded on BBC Radio 5 Live. “That should be his last performance in a Chelsea shirt. He’s a disgrace. I’ve never seen anything like it.
“If I was Sarri I would walk. You cannot be undermined. Why weren’t the players dragging Kepa off anyway?
“Kepa should be sacked, not Sarri.”