Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri says the incident involving goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga in the Carabao Cup final was a “misunderstanding”.
The club record £71m signing appeared to defy the Italian’s attempt to substitute him in extra time beforeManchester City wonon penalties.
Sarri appeared furious and walked down the tunnel before quickly returning.
“I misunderstood the problem and only realised the situation when the doctor arrived at the bench,” said Sarri.
“He understood I asked for a change for his physical problem. He said, ‘I haven’t a physical problem’ – and he was right.”
The 24-year-old later echoed his manager’s words and insisted the incident was caused by “confusion”.
“It was misunderstood. In no moment was it my intention to disobey, or anything like that with the boss,” said Arrizabalaga.
“It was two or three minutes of confusion until the medics got to the bench and they explained everything well.
“He thought I couldn’t continue, and – fundamentally – I was trying to say that physically I was fine.”
- ‘This was a painful, public indignity’ – has Sarri been fatally undermined?
- ‘Mutiny’ at Chelsea – reaction to Arrizabalaga substitution
- ‘Kepa has completely undermined Sarri’
- Football Daily podcast: Arrizabalaga saga & Puel leaves Leicester
Spaniard Arrizabalaga initially went down with cramp – prompting the Chelsea bench to ready reserve goalkeeper Willy Caballero.
Sarri was visibly angry as his goalkeeper refused to follow orders from the touchline but eventually conceded following a conversation with referee Jonathan Moss.
“I realised after, when the doctor arrived. I have talked to him [Moss] but only to clarify because now I have understood the situation,” Sarri said.
“It was a big misunderstanding because I understood the keeper had cramp and was unable to go to penalties. But it was not cramp and he could go to the penalties.
“I needed to return [down the tunnel] to be quiet.”
‘Sarri protecting players’
Speaking to Sky Sports, former Chelsea captain John Terry said he believed Sarri’s “misunderstanding” explanation was a decision taken to protect his goalkeeper.
“Whether that has been dealt with inside the dressing room, I don’t know,” said Terry.
“Publicly, that’s his approach. He’s protecting his player.”
Ex-Napoli manager Sarri has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks, following a 6-0 defeat to Manchester City in the Premier League and an FA Cup exit at the hands of Manchester United.
Yetdespite doubts over his future, the Blues produced a resolute performance in Sunday’s final as Sarri demonstrated a back-up plan to his ‘Sarri-ball’ philosophy.
“Here I am very happy and in the last three matches we are improving and have improved a lot,” said Sarri.
“Today showed everyone we could be a very solid team because we conceded nothing to the opponents, and to Manchester City that is not easy.
“I am proud of the players. I think the club would be proud of that performance too, because the performance was very good against, in my opinion, the best club in Europe.”