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‘Speechless’ Zola lifts the lid on Kepa’s Chelsea sub refusal

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Gianfranco Zola explained the crazy scenario that played out between goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and Chelsea during last season’s Carabao Cup final.

Kepa infamously defied manager Maurizio Sarri’s wishes to come off the pitch for Willy Caballero in February. At the time, the goalkeeper struggled with a cramp and seemed doubtful for Chelsea’s penalty shootout.

Much to Sarri’s fury, however, Kepa stayed put and couldn’t prevent Chelsea losing 4-3 to Manchester City in the final.

Now, six months later, Zola has finally dished out the details behind that infamous and bizarre moment.

“In the beginning, he misunderstood,” Zola, who worked as Sarri’s assistant coach last season, told beIN Sports on the Kepa saga.

“He was pretending he was injured because he wanted to waste time.

“There was nothing really wrong but we then made some considerations. We knew we had Willy Caballero on the bench, who knew all of the Manchester City players and so it was an opportunity for us.”

The former Italian striker confirmed Chelsea hoped to make good use of Caballero’s inside knowledge of the City squad for the shoot-out.

The Argentine keeper had previously spent three years at the Etihad Stadium before joining Chelsea in 2017.

“We were going to make the change, continued Zola.

“It wasn’t pre-arranged but we saw the day before he [Kepa] was injured, so we thought it was the injury coming back and we saw an opportunity because Caballero knows the Manchester City players so he can also be a good thing; simple as that.

“It was obviously not an easy situation to deal with. We could not believe it, we were speechless, we kept telling him to come off but he didn’t come”.

Reflecting more on the Kepa incident, Zola added: “I mean, we could have dealt with it better probably, maybe the skipper could have gone to him and say ‘come to the touchline’ but in the end sometimes you have a situation like this.”

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 24: Kepa Arrizabalaga of Chelsea fails to save a penalty from Sergio Aguero of Manchester City in the shoot out during the Carabao Cup Final between Chelsea and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium on February 24, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)