Thursday, February 28, 2019

THE first trophy in English football went up for grabs over the weekend and it was Manchester City who clinched the first leg of a possible quadruple.

They did it the hard way though by winning on penalties after a scoreless game that wasn’t without controversy after the Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga refused to be substituted in the final minute of injury time in extra time.

He had struggled with cramp during extra time (unusual for a goalkeeper). He made a save with just a minute left, he was struggling badly and was about to be replaced but quite amazingly he just stood his ground and refused to be taken off.

I have never seen that happen before in all the time I have watched any sport. As a player I understand the frustration of coming off, and it must be very difficult for a goalkeeper to be substituted before a shoot-out. I can’t believe the manager allowed him to do that.

He completely undermined the manager and also his replacement Willy Caballero who was waiting to come on. Caballero has a good history in penalty shoot-outs and would have been a possible substitute regardless of injury.

I have seen a manager sub a goalkeeper on a couple of occasions in extra time just before a shoot-out, most notably when Sligo Rovers beat Shamrock Rovers in the FAI Cup final the year after I left Sligo. He ended up as the hero as he saved a couple of penalties in the shoot-out, but it is always a big risk for a manager to make.

I think it could be one of the last times we will see Maurizio Sarri in charge at Chelsea as he has been undermined massively by one of his players on a massive stage. He has already been under pressure recently with Chelsea struggling in the league, but this won’t have helped his case.

I can’t believe the manager didn’t have the authority to take the player off and it clearly shows that player power is ruling the roost in the dressing room.

After the game Sarri played the incident down as a misunderstanding but this wasn’t the case. Sarri nearly walked down the tunnel after the incident happened only for him to change his mind at the last second and come back.

City won the game on penalties and Kepa didn’t help himself in the shoot-out even though he saved one penalty because he let a very weak penalty from Sergio Aguero beat him to keep Man City ahead.

It is the first trophy of a possible four that City can win this year and after the result in Old Trafford between Manchester United and Liverpool, who is to argue that the Premier League won’t be the second.

Liverpool were favourites going into the game and after the first half they would have been even bigger favourites as Manchester United lost three of their players to injuries in the opening 45 minutes.

Both sides had chances to win the game in the second half but a draw was a fair result and it was almost the perfect result for Manchester City fans.

It capped off a perfect week for City after they went away to Schalke and beat them in the Champions League 3-2 with a late winner from Leroy Sane clinching the victory.

It gives them the away goals cushion with the return leg in Manchester and you expect them to clinch the tie there to continue their quest for multiple trophies this season.

They have the ability and the squad to win all four trophies this season and if I am being honest, I want them to win all four from a selfish point of view.

I grew up as a Manchester United fan but at the end of the day it would be a brilliant thing to be able to tell my children or grandkids that I scored against Manchester City in the season that one of the best sides in the history of English football won everything there was to win.

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