LONDON: Maurizio Sarri, exposed at the League Cup Final as a manager lacking all authority and respect from his Chelsea players, tried to explain away the club’s Wembley farce as a “misunderstanding.”
Spanish goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, a world record £72m signing from Bilbao last summer, defied the Chelsea manager’s attempt to substitute him in the last minutes of extra time before Manchester City won 4-3 on penalties after a goalless draw.
Kepa went down initially and for the second time with cramp, prompting the Chelsea bench to prepare reserve goalkeeper Willy Caballero to take over.
Sarri was visibly angry as his goalkeeper refused to follow orders from the touchline. He walked down the tunnel before quickly returning and conceding after a conversation with referee Jonathan Moss.
He said: “I realised after, when the doctor arrived. I have talked to him [Moss] but only to clarify because now I have understood the situation.
“It was a big misunderstanding because I understood the keeper had cramp and was unable to go to penalties. But it was not cramp and he could go to the penalties. I needed to return [down the tunnel] to be quiet.”
“I misunderstood the problem and only realised the situation when the doctor arrived at the bench. He understood I asked for a change for his physical problem. He said, ‘I haven’t a physical problem’ – and he was right.”
The 23-year-old later echoed his manager’s words and insisted the incident was caused by “confusion”.
Kepa said: “It was misunderstood. In no moment was it my intention to disobey, or anything like that with the boss. It was two or three minutes of confusion until the medics got to the bench and they explained everything well.
“He thought I couldn’t continue, and – fundamentally – I was trying to say that physically I was fine.”
Ex-Napoli manager Sarri has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks, following a 6-0 defeat to Manchester City in the Premier League and an FA Cup exit at the hands of Manchester United.
Winning City manager Pep Guardiola had mixed feelings in victory because “we will miss a lot of important players for a few weeks”.
He said: “Being in four competitions is so demanding, so tough, we don’t know where we’re going to arrive. Fernandinho and Laporte will be some weeks out.”
France defender Laporte was replaced at half-time by club captain Vincent Kompany, while Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho limped off just before the start of extra time to be replaced by Danilo.
Centre-back John Stones and left-back Benjamin Mendy are still out, leaving City short of defensive cover. Fernandinho played at centre-back against Schalke midweek, while Laporte has also covered at left-back recently.
City play West Ham on Wednesday, and to add to their troubles centre-back Nicolas Otamendi is suspended for the second leg against Schalke on 12 March.
Guardiola, who won 14 honours in four years at Barcelona, said: “Winning this game is good for the enthusiasm for the next games.
“We are going to suffer for the next competitions, especially in the Champions League and Premier League but the win is important for the mood – ‘OK, guys, we have two titles already in our basket, the Community Shield and today’.
“Winning the game is important for the enthusiasm for the next game, but this competition is demanding a lot.”