Kepa 'should be sacked'

Clockwise from above: Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga watching in despair as Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero's spot kick in the League Cup final shoot-out slips under his body and into the net. Earlier, the Spaniard, seen remonstrating wit
Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga watching in despair as Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero's spot kick in the League Cup final shoot-out slips under his body and into the net.PHOTO: REUTERS
Clockwise from above: Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga watching in despair as Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero's spot kick in the League Cup final shoot-out slips under his body and into the net. Earlier, the Spaniard, seen remonstrating wit
His act of insubordination drew an animated response from his manager Maurizio Sarri as City went on to win 4-3 on penalties.PHOT0: REUTERS
Clockwise from above: Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga watching in despair as Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero's spot kick in the League Cup final shoot-out slips under his body and into the net. Earlier, the Spaniard, seen remonstrating wit
Earlier, the Spaniard, seen remonstrating with teammate David Luiz, had refused to be substituted towards the end of extra time.PHOTO: REUTERS

Chelsea goalkeeper blasted for refusing to be substituted; Sarri plays down 'misunderstanding'

LONDON • For Chelsea, the mutiny. For Manchester City, the bounty. A humdrum League Cup final won 4-3 on penalties by City after a goal-less finish will be remembered more for the dramatic events late on in extra time.

Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga refused to leave the field when summoned to the bench by his manager Maurizio Sarri, who wanted to bring on Willy Caballero, a known penalty specialist.

It was an unprecedented sight on Sunday, but one that brought swift and unanimous condemnation.

Pundit Chris Sutton lashed out at the Spain international, telling BBC Sport "Kepa should be sacked".

The former Blues forward said: "I've seen players disgruntled before and throw a boot or their shirt down when they're taken off, but players know the rules.

"That should be his last performance in a Chelsea shirt. He's a disgrace, never seen anything like it.

"If I were Sarri, I would walk. You can't be undermined... It's not just Kepa who has disrespected Sarri, it's the Chelsea players."

Chelsea great John Terry felt Kepa's blatant dissent had subverted the Italian's authority.

He told Sky Sports: "Once your number goes up, you have to come off. It's a cloud over Chelsea's display after they played so well."

However, both Kepa and Sarri were on the same page afterwards, with the £71.6 million (S$126.3 million) summer signing issuing a statement on social media.

He tweeted: "At no time has it been my intention to disobey the coach or any of his decisions. The coach thought I was not in a position to play and my intention was to express I was good to continue helping the team. I have full respect for the coach and his authority."

Sarri also portrayed the furore as "a big misunderstanding", insisting: "I understood there was a problem and we needed a change. I understood he had cramp but the problem was not cramp, so he was able to go to penalties."

However, pundits were not buying the official line after Sarri, who had to be restrained by defender Antonio Rudiger, was seen repeatedly gesturing at Kepa to come off before storming down the tunnel.

Former Chelsea midfielder Craig Burley questioned on Twitter if that was the case, then "why Sarri was still trying to kill him just before the pens".

Ex-Chelsea player Ruud Gullit also claimed it was simply "a political answer for the newspapers".

Kepa did go on to save Leroy Sane's spot kick, but should have done better when Sergio Aguero's penalty slipped underneath him.

Chelsea fans were left wondering what could have been, had Caballero, who according to the Mirror has saved 11 out of 38 spot kicks in his career, come on.

City captain Vincent Kompany was relieved his former teammate was not fielded for the shoot-out, saying: "I know how good Caballero is on penalties. Last time, he won it (the 2016 Cup) for us so I didn't want him on."

While Pep Guardiola was "happy to win back-to-back in this competition for the first time in our history", it came at a cost with Fernandinho and Aymeric Laporte out injured for the "next few weeks".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 26, 2019, with the headline 'Kepa 'should be sacked''. Print Edition | Subscribe