A brilliant performance overshadowed by a moment of stupidity.
Chelsea perhaps put in their best tactical performance of the season as they lost in penalties to City in the final of the League Cup. This game came with lots of pressure as Chelsea had only lost to City 6-0 2 weeks ago, and the added cloud of Sarri’s future. Sarri chose a false 9 formation similar to the one that saw us beat City in December. Kepa returned in goal with Azpi, Rudiger, Luiz, and Emerson starting in defence. Emerson’s inclusion was particularly inspiring as Alonso was no where to be seen. Jorginho, Kante and Barkley start in the midfield while Willian, Hazard, and Pedro started up front. From the get go Chelsea were inspired as they were happy for City to keep the ball and we blocked every possible channel that the players tried to find. Our pressing forced the City players wide and their crosses into the box were easily dealt by Rudiger and Luiz.
The 2nd half saw more of the same although this time Chelsea started to add the pressure as we created chances on the counter. Sarri made his first substitution in the 79th minute as Hudson-Odoi came on for Pedro. CHO added more energy to the right hand side as he ran at Zinchenko and drew several fouls. Sarri then brought on Loftus-Cheek for Barkley and the affect was again positive as RLC added physicality and pace to the midfield which was capped off by a brilliant flick and turn which then saw Hazard through on goal. Unlike Kane’s similar chance the referee called offside prematurely and VAR was not brought into play. The game then went into extra time and Higuain came on for Willian. Higuain linked up well the CHO and Hazard as the momentum was clearly in Chelsea’s favour. Though the final moments of extra time saw the weirdest moment in football I have seen. Kepa had been playing well but seemed to be suffering from cramps and so Sarri chose to bring Caballero on because of that. Kepa was saying he was fine but Sarri and Zola had made the decision and his name was up on the board, Kepa though refused to go off the pitch. Sarri and Zola lost it as Kepa continued to refuse and that saw Sarri almost leave the pitch in rage. Caballero had to be consoled and as he probably felt disrespected. Kepa stayed on and Chelsea took the first penalty. Jorginho stepped up but Ederson had done his homework and did not fall for the Italians skipping trick. Gundogan converted, followed by Azpi, who was followed by Aguero, who was followed by Emerson. Sane stepped up and Kepa saved his penalty as Chelsea were level again. Luiz though hit the post and Bernardo Silva converted his penalty. Hazard gave Chelsea a chance after converting his penalty but Sterling scored and so City won.
Post match the questions were all about the Kepa incident and Sarri stated that it was a misunderstanding and that he thought that Kepa was not fit. Sarri did say that the manner in which Kepa conducted himself was wrong and he would talk to him. In my opinion I get that Kepa is young and passionate but if your number is up you leave the pitch you do not disrespect the manager or your other goalkeeper. Caballero was the City goalkeeper in 2016 and for all we know he could have saved his ex teammates penalties especially the Aguero one. Kepa should be talked to and maybe dropped for a game even though it is Spurs next it is a lesson he has to learn. All that is ifs and buts and it was a highly annoying moment in what was an amazing performance by the squad. Sarri was tactically flexible, he made all the right substitutions and if anything this game showed why he should stay and be given a chance to build at this club.
- Kepa – Was really good throughout the game but his antics at the end might have dented his image momentarily. A great young goalkeeper but he needs to learn from this.
- Azpilicueta – Much better at marking Sterling in this game and a great performance over all. I do bring into question his role in the Kepa situation because he was the captain and he did not react in anyway, post match he said it was nothing and that is not how a captain should behave. Terry would have dragged Kepa off.
- Rudiger – A solid performance at the back as he defended extremely well. Took risks in defence and made fouls when it was necessary.
- Luiz – A great performance as he was solid at the back and made some brilliant passes especially one to Kante in the first half. Much more of a leader figure than Azpi.
- Emerson – His best performance in a Chelsea shirt and Sarri seems to be seeing the light as he started such an important game. It seems to be curtains on Alonso’s starting spot in the team.
- Jorginho – Jorginho replied extremely well to the boos he faced against Malmo as he was physical and dominant in midfield alongside Kante. Jorginho did miss the penalty but it is a lucky draw at the end of the day.
- Kante – In a game where any player could have been man of the match he was above the rest as he literally covered every blade of grass. Defended at the back added attacking threat upfront and seriously if anyone says he is a DM they should be banned from football. Kante can play anywhere.
- Barkley – Barkley did the simple stuff well and showed a lot of determination but he broke down play too often.
- Pedro – Covered the flanks well and pressed the City players.
- Hazard – Brilliant, Hazard was given no easy task playing as false 9 and it was a frustrating position for him but he showed great professionalism and even helped out at the back.
- Willian – Did Pedro’s job on the other side and played well but was seen smiling and laughing with Pep right after the final whistle and thats not something I want to see right after a final.
- Hudson-Odoi – Great when he came on he provided a direct threat to City which was proved as they marked him very tightly.
- Loftus-Cheek – RLC showed that when fit he should start first a great cameo and that flick was filthy. Should start against Spurs.
- Higuain – Linked up well with CHO and Hazard and should br crucial in the coming games.
Kepagate as reporters are calling it might have overshadowed a great performance by Chelsea but the players, fans and reporters have not time to dwell on it as Spurs travel to the Bridge in the Premier League on Wednesday. We still need to finish in the top four and we are still in the Europa League. If we play with the same determination that we played with yesterday we could reach all our goals for the season and keep Sarri. COME ON YOU BLUES!!!!