Manchester City won the Carabao Cup in a penalty shootout at Wembley after Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga defied manager Maurizio Sarri’s attempt to substitute him.
City claimed the first major trophy in their four-pronged assault on silverware but this stale final, which was goalless after extra-time, will be remembered for an almost unprecedented challenge to Sarri’s authority by Arrizabalaga.
The £71m Spanish keeper, Chelsea’s club record signing, had been struggling with cramp in the closing stages of extra-time and Sarri decided to send on substitute Willy Caballero, who saved three penalties in a shootout to help Manchester City win this trophy against Liverpool in 2016.
Arrizabalaga refused to come off and Sarri backed down in a rage, before his misery was completed as City won the shootout, with Raheem Sterling scoring the winning penalty.
Ilkay Gundogan, Sergio Aguero and Bernardo Silva scored from the spot for City and even though Arrizabalaga saved from Leroy Sane it was to no avail.
Jorginho’s spot kick was saved by Ederson and David Luiz hit the post as Chelsea were sunk, despite Cesar Azplicueta, Emerson and Eden Hazard converting their kicks.
City retained the trophy but Arrizabalaga’s insubordination will be the headline story.
How can Sarri survive?
The scenes inside Chelsea’s dressing room hardly bear thinking about after the chaos of those closing moments at Wembley.
Arrizabalaga’s point-blank refusal to be replaced by Caballero led to furious exchanges between Sarri and his technical staff, with the Italian looking at one stage as if he would storm away and leave his Chelsea players to it for the conclusion.
He eventually returned but blazing with fury. Antonio Rudiger then restrained Sarri as he appeared set on confronting Arrizabalaga after his one-man rebellion.
Of course, the goalkeeper was seriously at fault, showing his manager a complete lack of respect in ignoring his demands.
What, however, does this say about Sarri’s authority and rule at Stamford Bridge that he backed down instead of demanding the goalkeeper obey his demands?
The sad aspect was that this was a tactically sound and spirited Chelsea display, in sharp contrast to the 6-0 mauling at Manchester City on 10 February.
Chelsea grew into the game and consider themselves unfortunate to lose in this manner – but the ramifications of those closing moments will reverberate around Stamford Bridge and could have very serious consequences for both Sarri and his goalkeeper.
Man City win ugly
City claimed the first of the four trophies on their agenda without being at their silky, creative best.
Pep Guardiola’s side were stifled by Sarri’s astute game plan but stuck at it and did the job on penalties, they only way they could break Chelsea’s resistance.
The win may come at a price, with Fernandinho injured, but the top sides can find a way to prevail when not at their peak and this was City delivering a prime example.
Bernardo Silva kept City ticking over throughout and while a City quadruple is still a distant prospect, they have hit their first target.
This was a final that will always be recalled for what happened in the other camp but City were not concerned about that as they celebrated wildly on the Wembley turf.
Six of the best – the stats
- Manchester City have won the League Cup for a sixth time – only Liverpool (eight) have won the trophy more in the competition’s history.
- The past two League Cup finals to go to penalties have both been won by City (also 2016 against Liverpool).
- This was the first League Cup final to end goalless since 2009, when Manchester United beat Tottenham on penalties.
- The past two occasions that City have failed to score in a match this season have come against Chelsea (also 0-2 at Stamford Bridge in December).
- The first shot of the match came in the 22nd minute, while the first shot on target wasn’t until the 43rd minute.
- Callum Hudson-Odoi – aged 18 years and 109 days – became Chelsea’s second-youngest player to appear in a League Cup final, after John Boyle (18 years 80 days) in 1965.
- Two of the four finals involving Pep Guardiola as a manager to have gone to penalties have been against Chelsea, with Guardiola winning both (also 2013 Super Cup with Bayern Munich).
More to follow.
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