Kepa Arrizabalaga’s refusal to be substituted marred a strong performance by Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final, which was won by Manchester City on penalties.
The match was a far cry from the last meeting between the two sides, when Manchester City had handed a 6-0 mauling to Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium. This time around, no goals were scored, even after an additional 30 minutes of extra time, although there were a number of chances for both sides to clinch the win within the two hours.
It wasn’t until midway through the first half that the first major opening of the game was created, with Bernardo Silva creating the chance for Sergio Aguero, whose shot sailed over the crossbar. That was the only real chance to break the deadlock before half-time.
Aguero thought he had put City in front within ten minutes after the break, only to be pulled back for offside, which was confirmed by VAR as well. Chelsea should have taken the lead in the 66th minute, when Eden Hazard squared the ball in for N’Golo Kante, only for the Frenchman to fire over.
Ross Barkley had the last big chances of the game coming to him, but he failed to score as well. The extra time saw Manchester City dominating much of the proceedings, but there still was no goalmouth action on either end of the pitch. As the minutes wound down, it looked increasingly likely that the match will be decided by a penalty shootout.
While that did end up being the case, the extra time ended on a major controversial note, as Kepa Arrizabalaga refused to be substituted after seemingly struggling with cramps. The player’s dissent left Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri incensed, but the substitution did not happen.
In the penalty shootout, Manchester City prevailed 4-3, after Jorginho and David Luiz missed their spot-kicks for Chelsea. Kepa did save a penalty from Leroy Sane, but he should have thwarted Sergio Aguero as well. In the end, City ended up lifting the League Cup for the sixth time, and The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Sarri’s men.
Kepa Arrizabalaga: 5/10
😳 – Have you EVER seen anything like it!?
Maurizio Sarri tries to substitute Kepa Arrizabalaga for Willy Caballero, but Kepa refuses to come off and Sarri is absolutely FURIOUS! 😡 pic.twitter.com/Q81v6ry3Kk
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) February 24, 2019
In complete contrast to the game two weeks ago, Kepa had a largely quiet evening, having not had much to do in regulation time. In extra time, the world’s most expensive goalkeeper did well to clean up after a scramble and denied Sergio Aguero as well late on. But, it was what happened in the final moments of extra time that became the biggest talking point of the game
After going down with cramps, Kepa refused to go off when Sarri had decided to bring Willy Caballero on. Had a chance to go back to being the hero, but could only stop Leroy Sane’s penalty. Should have denied Aguero from the spot. Has since apologised in a statement. Thoroughly unprofessional, regardless.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 7/10
Much improved from the meeting a fortnight ago, Azpilicueta did well to negate the threat of Raheem Sterling to a great extent, although the Englishman’s pace and trickery still left him backpedalling at times. More such outings needed from the captain, if Chelsea are to finish in the Premier League top four.
Antonio Rudiger: 8/10
Rudiger was nothing short of colossal on Sunday, denying Sergio Aguero at every given opportunity. Was bailed out by the offside flag the one time City’s star striker did end up beating him. Overall there was very little faulting the German in the final, apart from the moment that saw him slip during a City counter and subsequently earn a booking.
David Luiz: 6/10
Much like Rudiger, David Luiz impressed for much of the game. In particular, the Brazilian allowed Chelsea to control the proceedings, whenever they did. Left much to be desired whenever he stepped up to take free-kicks. Did too much with his penalty, when he ended up smashing the upright.
Emerson Palmieri: 7/10
Starting once again in place of Marcos Alonso, Emerson impressed in what was perhaps, the biggest game of his career. Up against Bernardo Silva, the former AS Roma full-back held his own all through the game. Going forward, he was much improved, linking up well with Eden Hazard. A performance that ought to keep Alonso out for quite some time.
N’Golo Kante: 9/10
After playing against Malmo in the UEFA Europa League, Kante played the entire 120 on Sunday as well, showing no signs of his energy levels letting up. A major exponent of the changed tactics by Sarri, slotting in the central areas when Chelsea were off the ball, then taking his usual positions when in possession.
Constantly getting in and around the box, Kante had the best scoring opportunity coming his way, as far as the Blues were concerned, but he could only shoot over the crossbar. In a game of slim margins, that spurned chance cost his side dearly.
The turn of the year and the relentless English calendar has not been kind to Jorginho. But, the Italian international operated on a much higher level against City, taking charge of setting the tempo of the game, and doing so quite well. But, the game ended on a sour note for him, as he missed his first penalty for Chelsea, saved quite easily by Ederson Moraes.
Ross Barkley: 6/10
Barkley started the game nervily, as the occasion seemed to be getting to him. But, the Englishman soon picked up the pieces, linking up well with the players in front of him, and barely playing a sloppy ball. Another who came close to scoring, but his curling effort only narrowly evaded the goal.
Back into the side after recovering from illness, Pedro did not see much of the ball, with much of Chelsea’s attack flowing from the left flank. Worked tirelessly off the ball, however, helping out Azpilicueta in negating the threat of Sterling. Had a glorious opportunity coming his way in the second half, but he inexplicably chose to cut back instead of going for goal.
Eden Hazard: 9/10
Starting in the False Nine role that he does not always prefer, Hazard posed the biggest threat for his side, taking cues from Roberto Firmino’s copy book by dropping deep and creating the space for the wide men to exploit. Created the two biggest chances of the game, both of which ought to have been converted into a goal.
Eden Hazard’s #CarabaoCupFinal by numbers vs. Man City:
100% take-ons completed
8 take-ons attempted
6 fouls won
Even the Panenka wasn’t enough. 😔 pic.twitter.com/1rkXgyhoYK
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 24, 2019
A world class player who manages to make the best of what is in front of him. Showed nerves of steel converting his penalty, but even the Panenka was not enough for Chelsea to pip Manchester City to the Carabao Cup title.
While Pedro did not see a lot of action, Willian was right in the thick of it, and seemed to have continued from where he had left off against Malmo. Showed tremendous work-rate to romp up and down the pitch, helping Emerson out whenever City threatened. Unable to inspire the deadlock-breaking goal, however.
Callum Hudson-Odoi: 7/10
Like Barkley, Hudson-Odoi was playing the first final of his career. But, the teenage prodigy showed no signs of nerves affecting him. A bundle of energy throughout his time on the pitch, but the young winger too, could not produce a game changing moment.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek: 7/10
On for Barkley, Loftus-Cheek worked hard off the ball, giving Sarri much food for thought so as to include him more in the starting lineup going forward. On the ball, the midfielder helped transition well.
Gonzalo Higuain: 5/10
Quite surprising that Sarri did not start the January signing from kick-off. Finally introduced in extra time, but he did not do much after coming on. Did not take a penalty in the shootout, which was a surprise as well.