Sunday afternoon featured a matchup of two powerhouses in the world of English soccer, as Chelsea and Manchester City squared off in the final of the Carabao Cup. It’s one of the major competitions that exists in English football, and while it doesn’t possess the gravity of the Premier League or the prestige of the FA Cup, it’s still a major trophy for which clubs strive to win.
This year’s final was a thrilling affair. City drubbed Chelsea two weeks ago, winning 6-0 in a Premier League matchup. Chelsea appeared to be motivated to not let a repeat occur, and for 90 minutes, the North London residents played their hearts out, forcing a 0-0 draw en route to extra time. While there, Chelsea continued to be stout defensively while hoping the brilliance of Eden Hazard would lead to a goal. Everything was going according to plan despite the draw, and then, disaster struck.
Kepa Arrizabalaga is Chelsea’s first-year keeper, having joined the club over the summer from Athletic Bilbao for €80 million, a record for a goalkeeper. Kepa appeared to tweak something in his legs during extra time, but was able to play on. Shortly after, he looked to have hurt himself again while denying Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero from breaking the deadlock.
The medical staff tended to Kepa while backup keeper Willy Caballero warmed up. Caballero was prepared to come on for penalties, to the point that he was on the touchline with manager Maurizio Sarri. Instead, this happened, and was it a sight to behold.
Kepa straight up refused to come off, screaming with intent at Sarri while stressing that he was fine to play. It led to this wild scene where Sarri was absolutely furious as he got overpowered by his 24-year-old keeper, Caballero stood there without any idea what was happening, and Kepa refused to give an inch. It even looked like Sarri was preparing to leave and go to the back, but instead, he stuck around.
Now some quick context here, because two things are important to stress, beyond the fact that the author of this post is a Manchester City fan and found this all extremely good. Number one is that Caballero is considered a pretty stout keeper when it comes to stopping penalties, to the point that he saved three in the League Cup final in 2016 when he was a member of Manchester City. Number two is that Chelsea is a club going through a bit of a crisis right now, as Sarri is in serous danger of getting sacked at the end of the year despite being hired this past summer. Losing this exact power struggle in a final is legitimately stunning and pretty representative of where Chelsea is right now.
Things did go to penalties, though, meaning Kepa got the chance at redemption he so desperately wanted. Chelsea was put behind the eight ball right away as their first penalty, a laughable attempt taken by Jorginho, was saved. Ilkay Gundogan stepped up for Manchester City and buried his. César Azpilicueta then walked to the spot for Chelsea, calmly burying the ball in the top corner in as good of a penalty as you’ll see.
Up stepped Aguero, one of the best strikers on earth and someone whose run of form lately has been out of this world. By his standards, his attempt at goal wasn’t especially great, but Kepa completely bottled the opportunity he so relished: The chance to play hero. Just look at this.
Kepa would go on to save the next penalty, but Manchester City would go on to win, burying four of their attempts from the spot to their opponent’s three. The Carabao Cup isn’t always the biggest attraction in the world of football, but thanks to a truly bizarre moment involving Chelsea’s keeper and manager, its final made headlines this year.