Manchester City retained the League Cup on Sunday at Wembley Stadium as they won 4-3 on penalties against Chelsea following a goalless draw – to heap more pressure on Maurizio Sarri.
It was the first time in the club’s history that they had won a tournament in back-to-back years with Raheem Sterling netting the decisive spot-kick.
But the game will be remembered for extraordinary scenes in the dying moments of extra time when Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga refused to be substituted by Sarri.
The incident began when Arrizabalaga firstly went down with apparent cramp.
Sarri looked to bring on former City goalkeeper Willy Caballero to replace Arrizabalaga to face the penalties.
But Arrizabalaga refused to come off the field, despite the fourth official having the board up for the change to be made, and with Caballero stood on the touchline.
An irate Sarri briefly looked as if he was walking back to the dressing room area at one stage, before he returned to the touchline with Arrizabalaga remaining on the pitch.
Arrizabalaga did not appear to have done himself any favours when he allowed City’s second penalty from Sergio Aguero in the shoot-out to slip through his fingers and into the net.
But he did save Leroy Sane’s spot-kick, which had levelled things after Jorginho had missed Chelsea’s first kick.
However, David Luiz struck the post with Chelsea’s fourth effort and Bernardo Silva and Sterling both converted their efforts to give City the victory.
The row between Sarri and Arrizabalaga marred a brave effort from Chelsea, which had come 13 days after they had been beaten 6-0 at City in the Premier League.
The league mauling at the Etihad Stadium had been the undeniable low point of Sarri’s reign, with four of the six goals coming in a chaotic first 25 minutes.
It was clear from the start, with Chelsea sitting deep and having Eden Hazard operate in a lone forward central position, that they were aiming to be considerably tougher nuts to crack this time around.
Chelsea were determined not be a soft touch and Jorginho showed that almost immediately in the opening seconds of the match. As the game kicked off, the midfielder ran across Aguero and body checked him, with his arm raised.
He caught Aguero and a free kick was given and referee Jon Moss consulted with VAR (Virtual Assistant Referee) before deciding no further action was required against the Brazilian.
The first half was one of frustration for City as, despite having the majority of possession, they struggled to get behind the Chelsea backline, and they were limited to wayward efforts from Aguero and Aymeric Laporte.
Laporte was replaced by Vincent Kompany at the interval and City thought they had broken the deadlock 11 minutes into the second half as Aguero bundled the ball home from close range, only for it to be ruled out for offside by the referee’s assistant.
The incident was reviewed by VAR and, even though there appeared to be a minimal gap, if any, between Aguero and Chelsea’s last defender, the goal remained ruled out, much to City’s frustration.
Chelsea became more ambitious as the second half wore on and they began to find gaps in the City backline.
N’Golo Kante fired over from close range after getting on the end of a pull-back from the byline from Hazard, while Ross Barkley should have done better than putting an effort high and wide when he found space on the edge of the City area.
Hazard became more and more of a factor as he found space and he was visibly frustrated after finding Pedro in space after a mazy run, only to see the Spaniard play a cross, which was blocked, rather then go for goal.
Extra time saw defences continue to dominate, though Arrizabalaga did well to parry away a loose ball after Aguero had a shot blocked following a cutback from Sterling.
City were victors on the day but it was not all good news for them as they will return north with their injury list significantly increased.
Both Fernandinho and Aymeric Laporte went off with injuries, and both are likely to be doubts for Wednesday’s league game at home to West Ham United.
Chelsea face Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday with all focus now on how Sarri will react to the apparent insubordination of Arrizabalaga.