Man City claim Carabao Cup on penalties after bizarre drama
Chelsea denied in shootout after row on the pitch between Sarri and Arrizabalaga
Manchester City’s Leroy Sane leads the charge to celebrate with Raheem Sterling after he scored the winner in the League Cup final win over Chelsea. Photo: Glyn Kirk/Getty Images
Chelsea 0 Manchester City 0 (Manchester City win 4-3 on penalties)
When the final kick was delivered, who would have wanted to be in the boots of Kepa Arrizabalaga? Raheem Sterling was off on his victory run and the trophy was back in Manchester City’s possession. Yet that told only part of the story bearing in mind the incredible scenes involving Maurizio Sarri, his goalkeeper and a public show of disobedience that could conceivably accelerate the process of Chelsea looking for another manager.
It was a remarkable finale and an unorthodox one, too, bearing in mind Sarri’s failed attempts to substitute Arrizabalaga just before the game headed into the decisive penalty shootout. Arrizabalaga had been injured twice in extra time and Sarri wanted to bring on Willy Caballero, a goalkeeper who had saved three penalties when City won this competition in 2016 with a shootout victory against Liverpool.
Arrizabalaga clearly had other ideas, signalling that he was fit, making it absolutely clear he had no intention of going off, then holding his ground and leaving Sarri close to the point of spontaneous combustion on the touchline. Arrizabalaga did manage to keep our Leroy Sané’s penalty but in those circumstances he was either going to be the hero or the villain and Sterling was the fourth player to beat him from 12 yards, following Ilkay Gündogan, Sergio Agüero and Bernardo Silva.
Ederson, City’s goalkeeper, saved from Jorginho with the first kick of the shootout and, ultimately, David Luiz hitting the post with Chelsea’s fourth effort was the decisive miss. César Azpilicueta and Emerson Palmieri had both beaten Ederson, whereas Eden Hazard did so with the most outrageous skill, but the final will be remembered for the refusal of Chelsea’s goalkeeper to leave the pitch and the public show of rage from his manager.
Sarri was so incensed he stormed into the tunnel and, briefly, it was not entirely clear that he would return. He did – but it needed Antonio Rüdiger to stop Sarri from getting to the Spaniard before the game went to penalties. To describe Sarri as livid would be an understatement. Justifiably, too, because it would be rare at any level to see a manager being disobeyed this way.
Not that City will particularly care about those kind of details after winning this trophy for the fourth time in six seasons. It was their sixth victory overall and that means there is only Liverpool, with eight, who have been more successful. Not bad, when until five years ago City’s fondest memories in this competition went back to the 1970s.
For all of Pep Guardiola’ss denials, they will like to think this could be the first part of a quadruple. Yet they found it tough against a Chelsea side who seemed determined to make up for the ordeal of their 6-0 humiliation in Manchester a fortinight ago.
On that occasion Chelsea were four goals down after 24 minutes. This time, City had only one shot on target throughout the first 90 minutes. There was even the strange phenomenon of Kevin De Bruyne misplacing a couple of passes. Chelsea’s players had learned that it does not work to stand off a team that is 15 points better off than them in the Premier League. They were quick to the ball, they chased down their opponents and played with a collective understanding that, before anything else, they had to find a way to disrupt City’s rhythm.
The game was barely a couple of seconds old when Jorginho introduced himself to Agüero with a flailing arm. Has there ever been a quicker free-kick in a cup final? Chelsea had not come with the intention of a brawl. Nor, however, did they have any intention of letting the Premier League champions have everything their own way. Jorginho’s block to stop Sterling running free, 88 minutes in, was even more cynical.
For long spells City still had more of the ball, as they always seem to, and the greater knowledge of how to move it, even on a day when they were considerably below their best. Agüero flitted around busily. David Silva, like De Bruyne, found it unusually difficult to weave his precious magic, resulting in the oddity of both players being substituted. Yet Bernardo Silva, in particular, was a difficult opponent for Palmieri, who was playing on the left of Chelsea’s defence because Sarri had dropped the out-of-form Marcos Alonso.
The problem for Chelsea was that if they attacked too adventurously it would leave spaces at the back for their opponents to exploit. As such, Sarri’s players looked hesitant at times, particularly in the first hour. The closest they came to scoring during normal time, indeed, might have been when Nicolás Otemendi almost headed a free-kick into his own net.
Otherwise, Chelsea looked far more dangerous when Hazard started to find more space in the second half, whereas their only threatening moment in the opening 45 minutes came when N’Golo Kanté set off after a long ball through the middle and looked as though he might get a clear run behind the City defence.
As often happens with Jon Moss, the referee was some way behind play when Oleksandr Zinchenko cut across Kanté and the Chelsea player went down. A free-kick in that position would have meant a red card and that was certainly what the end of the stadium wearing the darker shade of blue wanted. Instead, Moss waved on play and, more by luck than anything else, that was probably fair given that Kanté had actually controlled the ball on his hand as he ran between Aymeric Laporte and Zinchenko.
Laporte went off at half-time and when Fernandinho was injured later on that meant City, with all three substitutes used, had to wait until extra time before they could bring on a fourth, Danilo, in place of the Brazilian. Ultimately, though, the game will be remembered for the substitution that never was – and Arrizabalaga has some explaining to do. – Guardian service