Three things we learned from the League Cup final
Here are three things we learned from the Wembley showpiece:
Kepa row leaves Sarri fuming
As if Maurizio Sarri didn’t have enough problems as the Chelsea manager fights to save his job, he now has to deal with the fall-out from an incredible show of open dissent from his goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
With Sarri reportedly on the brink of being sacked amid talk of Chelsea’s players losing faith with him, there was very public evidence that the Italian doesn’t have the respect of at least one member of his squad.
When Kepa needed treatment late in extra-time, the second time he had called for assistance in the match, it seemed the Spaniard would be substituted as Willy Caballero walked to the touchline in preparation to come on.
But Kepa eventually climbed to his feet and signalled that he was fit enough to carry on.
Sarri disagreed and waved for Kepa to come off.
Incredibly, Kepa refused and stood in his penalty area while Sarri lost his cool, ranting in disbelief at the challenge to his authority, briefly storming down the tunnel and having to be held back by Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger when he went to confront him before the penalty shoot-out.
It was a spectacular meltdown that epitomised everything that has gone wrong for Sarri in his troubled first season in charge.
Kepa did save one penalty during the shoot-out, but that is unlikely to be enough to save him from Sarri’s wrath after a row that could easily cost his manager his job.
Happy homecoming for Sterling
Raheem Sterling enjoyed a memorable return to his north London home as the Manchester City winger scored the winning penalty.
Although Sterling was born in Jamaica, he lived just around the corner from Wembley after moving to England with his mother aged five.
England star Sterling has had a meteoric rise since leaving his tough neighbourhood and his cool finish from the spot was the perfect way to complete his remarkable journey.
“It’s a great feeling. I’m home, this is Wembley, my city. It was a tough game but it’s just amazing. The boys were brilliant today,” he said.
“I spoke to Leroy Sane before the penalty and I knew if I scored that was the winner and that was all the confidence I needed to make sure it went in.”
Sterling was seen speaking to City manager Pep Guardiola after the winning spot-kick, and the player revealed: “He said he didn’t watch it and asked where it went in. I told him it was ‘top bins’.”
City eye quadruple
Retaining the League Cup wasn’t high on City’s to-do list at the start of the season, but the sight of Guardiola and his players soaking up the post-match celebrations suggests the least glamourous of England’s domestic trophies will serve as an appetiser for tastier treats to come.
City won the League Cup last season and went on to lift the Premier League trophy in record-breaking style — now they could retain both prizes and possibly add the Champions League and FA Cup as well.
Guardiola says it is wrong to talk of City winning the quadruple — a feat no English team has achieved — because it puts too much pressure on them.
But they are only one point behind Liverpool in the league and few sides in recent history at least can boast City’s impressive array of firepower.
No wonder City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, speaking after Chelsea had finally been vanquished, said: “We had same conversation a year ago and we just try to win as many as possible.
“We are just pleased to be able to win it again. It is a special feeling.”
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