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Chelsea boss plays down Kepa row as ‘big misunderstanding’

Soccer Football - Carabao Cup Final - Manchester City v Chelsea - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - February 24, 2019 Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri and Willy Caballero react after Kepa Arrizabalaga (not pictured) refuses to be substituted Action Images via Reuters/Carl Recine

London: Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri said the refusal of his goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga to be substituted in League Cup final was the result of a “big misunderstanding”, adding that the Spaniard “was right but in the wrong way”.

Arrizabalaga appeared to be injured as he prevented Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero from scoring in the closing moments of extra time, and Sarri ordered his substitution before Chelsea went on to lose the final 4-3 in a penalty shootout.


But with the change already displayed to the stadium by the fourth official, and Chelsea’s reserve keeper Willy Caballero ready to come on, Kepa insisted he was fit to carry on and remained on the field to the visible anger of Sarri.

“It was a big misunderstanding because I understood that he had a cramp. So I didn’t want a keeper (to) go to penalties in that physical condition,” Sarri told reporters.

“The goalkeeper wanted only to let me know that he was in condition to go to the penalties,” the Italian said.

“It was only a big misunderstanding. Kepa was right, but in the wrong way.”

Arrizabalaga remained on the field for the penalty shootout which Manchester City won 4-3 after the showpiece match ended 0-0 after extra time to retain the trophy.

With a Premier League game on Wednesday against Tottenham Hotspur, ex-Chelsea captain John Terry, working as a TV pundit, said it would be “interesting” to see if Kepa kept his place.

Another former Chelsea player, striker Chris Sutton, described the situation as “mutiny”.

“He’s been undermined —it’s the worst thing that can happen to a manager,” Sutton told the BBC.

Former Athletic Bilbao keeper Kepa later backed Sarri’s comments, confirming it had been a misunderstanding, although he admitted the situation had looked bad.

“In no moment was it my intention to disobey, or anything like that with the boss. Just that it was misunderstood,” he said in a statement on Chelsea’s website here
“I know if you see it from outside, I don’t know how it went out, it is not the best image. I have spoken with the boss. I think it was misunderstood.

“I understand that on television, on social media, they’re talking about this. We have spoken now, and I was only trying to say I’m fine. He thought I wasn’t fine.”