LONDON – A more pragmatic than normal Manchester City, which for many minutes was at the mercy of Chelsea, managed to survive their Sunday match at Wembley Stadium, battling their rivals to a scoreless draw in regulation and 30 minutes of extra time but then prevailing 4-3 in a shootout to win the English Football League Cup final.
Just prior to the shootout – during which Raheem Sterling scored the winning tally for Man City – Chelsea’s Spanish goaltender, Kepa Arrizabalaga, refused to leave the pitch even though coach Maurizio Sarri had decided to replace him with Willy Caballero, a virtually unprecedented flouting of a manager’s will.
With the win, Man City captured its first trophy of the campaign, but three others are still pending as the squad is just one point in back of Liverpool, who leads the Premier League, and has already gotten into the elimination stages of the Champions League and FA cup quarterfinals.
This is Man City’s sixth English Football League Cup title
It was during the second 15-minute period of extra time that it looked like Arrizabalaga had injured his hand fighting for a loose ball, whereupon Sarri decided to replace him. But the goalkeeper waved off the substitution and repeatedly signaled to the coach that he was uninjured and intended to keep playing, bringing a look of mingled shock, frustration and rage to Sarri’s face.
Two weeks ago, Chelsea was smashed by City 6-0 in Premier League competition, and they played carefully and cautiously all evening on Sunday.
Scoring for Pep Guardiola’s City during the shootout were Ilkay Gundogan, Sergio Aguero and Bernardo Silva, although Arrizabalaga saved Leroy Sane’s shot, before Sterling delivered his winning strike.
Meanwhile, for Chelsea, Ederson saved Jorginho’s penalty kick and David Luiz ricocheted one off the post, although Cesar Azplicueta, Emerson and Eden Hazard did manage to sink their shots.
The big question after Arrizabalaga’s insubordination and Sarri’s backing down is now what will become of the Italian manager and the team, but during the match Sarri implemented a smart strategy all the way through.
It was Bernardo Silva who shone brightly for City, and – although Fernandinho was injured and the team was not at peak performance – they still managed to find the combination to bottle up Chelsea in their half of the pitch during regulation and extra time and to sink the penalty kicks when it counted.
During the match, City retained the ball 61 percent of the time, firing 13 shots (only 3 of which were on target) to Chelsea’s 7 (none of which were). Meanwhile, City committed 22 fouls to Chelsea’s 7.
Regardless of anything else, however, it is apparent that the match will be remembered for the unusual and potentially poisonous Arrizabalaga-Sarri confrontation.