Manchester City beat Chelsea 4-3 on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes to win the Carabao Cup final on Sunday.
Here, Football Paradise’s Matt McGeehan looks at the talking points from Wembley.
Kepa defies Sarri
Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga returned following a hamstring problem to start. He required treatment in extra time and Blues head coach Maurizio Sarri readied Willy Caballero to come on. Caballero saved three penalties for City in their 2016 League Cup win over Liverpool. Kepa’s name was called and his number shown, but the Spaniard refused to go off. Sarri was livid at being defied by the 24-year-old, who was signed for a world record fee for a keeper of £71.6million. Chelsea beat Tottenham on penalties to reach the final and Kepa saved from Leroy Sane to level matters at 2-2 after three kicks apiece. But David Luiz hit a post and City did not miss again in a 4-3 win sealed by Raheem Sterling’s spot-kick.
Quadruple still on
Guardiola downplayed the prospect of four trophies after the come-from-behind Champions League win at Schalke, but the unprecedented feat remains possible. Sunday was a good day for City, who, prior to retaining the trophy, saw Liverpool draw at Manchester United. Guardiola’s men are a point behind Liverpool having played the same number of games. City’s fourth League Cup in six years could be a prelude for further success. Only once since Swansea beat Bradford in 2013 have the competition’s winners finished the season with just the one trophy. That was City in 2016. Fernandinho’s departure in second-half stoppage time with an apparent groin problem could be significant across the remainder of the season.
What does this mean for Sarri’s future?
This will likely result in a stay of execution for Sarri, whose position was in doubt after a series of embarrassing losses. The 6-0 defeat at City, swiftly following the 4-0 loss at Bournemouth saw the Blues fans lose faith. They voiced their frustration with the inflexibility of the Italian during last Monday’s FA Cup loss to Manchester United, but he showed his tactical acumen here. Chelsea play Tottenham in the Premier League on Wednesday and face Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League last-16. They still have two possible avenues to return to the Champions League, so owner Roman Abramovich will almost certainly be patient, for now.
Chelsea inflicted Manchester City’s first loss of the season with a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge in December. City humiliated the Blues two weeks ago, their 6-0 win Chelsea’s biggest defeat in 28 years. Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger and Sarri said the true measure of this season’s Chelsea would come at Wembley. Chelsea were set up to stifle City in the first half, with Hazard deployed as a ‘false nine’. City did not take their chances and the tactical decision showed a modicum of flexibility in Sarri. The game opened up in the second half, with Hazard causing problems, but the sides could not be separated after a goalless 120 minutes, resulting in penalties.
Hazard-ous use of Eden pays off
Sarri feels Hazard playing as the attacking focal point makes Chelsea more defensively sound, the implication being Hazard is a liability on the left. Hazard played there for the first time under Sarri in December’s win over City, but there were mixed results thereafter before Gonzalo Higuain’s arrival. Hazard expressed his frustration at playing as a ‘false nine’ under Antonio Conte and has not appeared happy there, likely adding to his wish to seek a summer move to Real Madrid. The selection initially blunted Chelsea’s attack and left Hazard isolated, but he exploited space in the second half, tormenting City’s defence. The best chance Hazard created saw N’Golo Kante fire over. Higuain came on in extra time, but could not break the deadlock.
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