Manchester City retained the English League Cup by beating Chelsea 4-3 on penalty kicks after a bizarre climax to the Wembley showpiece on Sunday.
The bizarre part of the game was in Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga refusing to be substituted just before the penalty kicks shootout.
Nothing could separate the sides as the match finished 0-0 after extra time, but it was Manchester City who claimed the season’s first major silverware as they won the shootout.
Raheem Sterling fired the decisive spot-kick past Spaniard Arrizabalaga to complete the first part of what could be a quadruple for Pep Guardiola’s side.
Arrizabalaga minutes earlier had been involved in surely one of the strangest incidents in a Wembley final match.
He defied Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri’s orders to come off in the closing minutes of extra time after appearing to be injured.
Sarri, who had told substitute goalkeeper Willy Caballero to take over from Arrizabalaga, was left fuming in the technical area at the open show of mutiny by one of his players.
“It was a big misunderstanding because I understood the goalkeeper had a cramp and was unable to go to the penalty kicks. But it was not a cramp, and he could go to the penalties,” Sarri said.
To compound matters, Arrizabalaga then dived over Sergio Aguero’s weak penalty kick during the shootout.
He did save from Leroy Sane, but when Chelsea’s David Luiz struck the post with his spot-kick, it was left to Sterling to win with his kick.
The England forward smashed his penalty kick high into the roof of the net and sent the Manchester City fans into delirium after a tense afternoon.
“Of course I’m happy. Compliments to Chelsea, they had an incredible performance,” Guardiola, who claimed his 25th major trophy as a manager, said.
“I’m happy to win back-to-back in this competition for the first time in the club’s history.”
It was just two weeks after Chelsea were thrashed 6-0 by Manchester City in the English Premier League (EPL).
Also, it was six days after they went out of the FA Cup at home to Manchester United, during which Blues fans heckled under-pressure Sarri.
This time, it seemed the Italian had played the perfect tactical game to subdue Guardiola’s Manchester City slickers.
After a dour first half in which Chelsea stifled Manchester City, Sarri’s side was arguably the better of the two.
They had Eden Hazard who was causing havoc in the Manchester City defence.
N’Golo Kante missed a golden chance for the Londoners in the 65th minute after dazzling work by Hazard.
Aguero had seen an effort chalked off for offside and it was his shot at the end of extra time, saved by Arrizabalaga, that triggered the bizarre events.
It was an event for which a slow-burner of a Cup final match will be best remembered.
Manchester City has now won the League Cup four times in six seasons to move to second on the all-time list with six titles, two behind the record eight of Liverpool. (Reuters/NAN)