Kepa Arrizabalaga has lifted the lid on the controversial ending to Chelsea’s EFL Cup defeat to Manchester City when he appeared to have refused head coach’s Maurizio Sarri’s attempt to substitute him.
Kepa twice went to the floor seeking attention from the medical staff as the extra time period was coming to the end.
With a penalty shoot-out looming Sarri looked to bring on Willy Caballero, who in 2016 was in Man City’s goal and he saved a couple of penalties in that shoot-out win.
Keppa said of the incident: “Well, I think we competed well, against a great team, we were close, the luck of the penalties was we couldn’t win and I think the team competed well.
“First of all, I have to say it was misunderstood. In no moment was it my intention to disobey, or anything like that with the boss. Just that it was misunderstood, because I had been attended to by the medics twice, and he thought that I wasn’t in condition to continue.
“It was two or three minutes of confusion until the medics got to the bench, and they explained everything well. This was nothing to do with the problems I had this week, with [hamstring] it wasn’t that. And, well, it was misunderstood. Because he thought I couldn’t continue, and – fundamentally – I was trying to say that physically I was fine.“
Some pundits have said that his actions showed a lack of respect for Sarri, Kepa understood.
Kepas, 24, said: “Yes, yes…well, 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 but I am here to explain it, to say that it wasn’t my intention to go against the manager. We have spoken now, and I was only trying to say I’m fine. He thought I wasn’t fine. It was in tense moments, with a lot happening.
“I thought the bench felt I couldn’t continue, because it was the second time I’d gone to ground. It was extra-time. We’d run a lot so [going to ground] was also a way of stopping the match. We’d had a few moments suffering, defending, so it was to stop the match and for the team to draw breath and not a moment where I was saying I couldn’t continue. I know everyone is talking a lot about this, but it’s my opinion, how I lived it from inside.
Did he see the board go up?
“Yes, yes, of course I did. But because of that, it was until the medics had got back to the bench to explain I was fine, that I could continue. It wasn’t that I was refusing to be substituted, it was a way of trying to tell the bench that I was fine.”
So what did Sarri say to you afterwards?
“Well, we’ll speak if we need to talk more on this, but I think it was just misunderstood, and unfortunate, because now people are talking about this… I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know what to say, other than to say it was not my intention in any moment (to refuse).
“It has to be understood, too, that these were the last few minutes of a final, and I didn’t realise the reactions. It was only when I say they were going to change, I tried to say I was fine. It was the final minute, with a lot going on. I know the image it’s given, but I never intended to refuse to go off. It was only to say I was fine.
“I don’t think it has to be the major act of this final. I understand we played a good level against one of the best teams in the world. We were close to winning, obviously we’re sad that we didn’t, and I think the team needs to continue playing like this, because today we’ve shown we can compete against the best teams. Among the negatives, we have to take the positives.”