The Blues put in a valiant display at Wembley on Sunday afternoon but were ultimately denied when the contest came down to a shoot-out from 12 yards out.
Manchester City substitute Leroy Sane had one of his penalties saved but Jorginho and David Luiz suffered the same fate for Chelsea so we ended the day empty handed, after a game in which we became stronger and looked very different from the team that had lost 6-0 at City only two weeks ago.
This final went to extra-time after a 90 minutes in which Man City had the upper hand in the first half, but with only one tame shot on target and a more strongly struck one over the bar to show for it, and a second period during which the Blues, who had defended stoutly from the off, grew into the game. We had a great chance of our own midway through that half, fired over the bar by N’Golo Kante after Eden Hazard had opened up the City defence. Willian had a free-kick tipped over with normal time nearly up.
Chelsea were the better side in the first period of the extra 30 minutes, while City had two big moments in the second one. There was high drama at the end when the substitution board went up to replace Kepa Arrizabalaga, who was back from injury and had needed treatment on the pitch, with Willy Caballero. It was shaping up to be a penalty shoot-out against Caballero’s former club but Kepa appeared to go against his manager’s wishes and stayed on. He ultimately saved one of the penalties, but it was not enough.
Maurizio Sarri later explained there had been a misunderstanding as he believed Kepa had cramp which would have rendered him unsuitable for the shoot-out, but the doctor later explained that was not the case. Therefore, as far as Sarri is concerned Kepa was right to want to remain on but was wrong in his conduct, in the way he went about trying to stay on the pitch.
Having missed the midweek win over Malmo due to a hamstring strain, Kepa was able to return between the posts today and there were other changes from that Europa League line-up with Jorginho in midfield in place of Mateo Kovacic.
Up front, it was the three-pronged attack which had beaten Man City at the Bridge back in December, with Hazard in the central role, flanked by Pedro and Willian. At left-back, Emerson Palmieri retained his place having also played against Malmo.
On a lovely sunny late February day in London, the atmosphere before kick-off was hot, with new special banners at our end of the stadium, one of them naming our goalscorers from our five successful previous League Cup finals. We set off in pursuit of trophy number six.
After the slightly bizarre start to the game of a free-kick a couple of seconds in with Sergio Aguero judged to have been impeded by Jorginho as the ball went forward for the first time, and Ederson in the City goal miscuing his first kick at Hazard, the game settled down.
With nine minutes played, we could consider ourselves a touch unfortunate not to have a free-kick on the edge of the City box when Kante chased onto a David Luiz long pass and was challenged by Oleksandr Zinchenko.
As the first-half clock ticked on, our opponents began to enjoy the lion’s share of the ball and territorial advantage but we reached 25 minutes played, by which stage we were 4-0 down at the Etihad, with City having had only one effort on goal, a shot by Aguero on the half-turn while marked by Cesar Azpilicueta. It comfortably cleared our crossbar.
David Luiz was booked on 30 minutes for taking down Bernardo Silva out wide after the winger had escaped from Emerson, but it was David Luiz himself who cleared the free-kick.
Later in the half, Nicolas Otamendi, playing today in place of the injured John Stones, had the chance to turn the ball back into the danger zone from deep inside our penalty area, but Kepa intervened, before a moment of hope for the fans in royal blue. Hazard was found by a Willian pass and escaped Aymeric Laporte, but although the Belgian wizard twisted and turned inside the City box, he was eventually crowded out.
The half-time whistle blew not long after. Man City had looked the more dangerous side but without genuinely threatening to score. Chelsea were defending well, with Pedro and Willian dropping in to help our midfield against City’s four in there. 0-0 at the interval for the first time in one of our four meetings this season.
Both sides made errors at the start of the second half but then a great Emerson ball gave Hazard space to attack. He attempted to take the ball down inside of Otamendi and unfortunately, the defender made a good tackle.
Our opponents then put the ball into our net from an offside position. The fact Aguero had strayed was confirmed by VAR. There was no check needed when Fernandinho checked a Barkley run and was booked but David Luiz was too high with his free-kick from a long way back.
With 65 minutes played there came Chelsea’s big chance. Willian released Hazard and this time our no.10 did make something happen. He gained a yard on Vincent Kompany, a half-time substitute for injured Laporte, hit the byline and pulled the ball back. Kante, who had charged forward to join the attack met the pass at full pace but volleyed agonisingly over.
Barkley had a good effort on 70 minutes with a curler, as Chelsea were upping our counter-attack count. City were committing fouls and not looking wholly settled.
The London Blues were guilty of losing the ball unnecessarily on halfway which led to a dangerously placed free-kick and a Rudiger booking, but Kevin De Bruyne missed the target with his attempt.
At the other end, Pedro opted to square the ball rather than shoot when promisingly placed as Chelsea flowed forward at pace. The game was hotting up and opening up. Callum Hudson-Odoi was added to the mix.
We are looking bright around our opponents’ box but Jorginho took a booking shortly before the 90 minutes were up when City broke forward.
Otamendi then fouled Hazard out wide and was yellow carded as well. We were into stoppage time and this was a chance to put the ball into their goalmouth. What drama! Willian’s delivery was heading directly in before Ederson tipped it over.
Hazard was then denied a clear run on goal by an offside flag so there was to be extra-time. The Blues had grown stronger and stronger as the second half progressed. It was looking anyone’s game.
In the first period of extra-time, David Luiz and Hazard almost picked a way through on goal and Jorginho scooped a shot wide. Gonzalo Higuain had come on and was providing a new focus of attack, while Kante, as for much of the game, was proving problematic for City when they tried to find a way to our end of the pitch.
We survived an almighty goalmouth scramble four minutes into the second period, Kepa and Azpi making important interventions, and four minutes from the end Kepa made a diving stop to keep out Aguero after the otherwise excellent Rudiger had slipped.
Our keeper had problems however. He had needed treatment after that earlier City chance and now needed it again. Caballero stripped and the numbers were shown for the change, but Kepa was convinced he could continue and did so. Sarri looked furious.
After the toss of coins, the penalties took place at our end of the ground with Jorginho going first but his shot was saved. City scored their first and then Azpi found the roof of the net. Kepa got an arm to Aguero’s but could not keep it out but after Emerson scored, our keeper pulled off a fine save to deny Leroy Sane.
David Luiz’s was saved too however so it remained at 2-2. Bernardo Silva and Hazard both netted so when Raheem Sterling fired in his spot-kick, the trophy was Manchester City’s.
Chelsea 3 (Jorginho’s saved, Azpilicueta scored, Emerson scored, David Luiz’s saved, Hazard scored)
Man City 4 (Gundogan scored, Aguero scored, Sane’s saved, B Silva scored, Sterling scored)
Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta (c), Rudiger, David Luiz, Emerson; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley (Loftus-Cheek 88); Pedro (Hudson-Odoi 79), Hazard, Willian (Higuain 96).
Unused subs Caballero, Christensen, Kovacic, Giroud.
Booked David Luiz 30, Rudiger 72, Jorginho 88
Man City (4-1-4-1): Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte (Kompany h-t), Zinchenko; Fernandinho (Danilo start of extra-time) B Silva, De Bruyne (Sane 86), D Silva (Gundogan 79), Sterling; Aguero.
Unused subs Muric, Mahrez, Foden.
Booked Fernandinho 58, Otamendi 90+1
Referee Jon Moss