Kepa atones for Wembley

posted in: Chelsea | 0

Chelsea’s maverick goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga atoned for his rebellious outburst during the League Cup final by turning in a dazzling man-of-the-match performance at Craven Cottage as the Blues scraped home 2-1 in a tight game.

Kepa’s keeping started rather dodgily in the 18th minute after he fumbled a ball, failed to hold it, and it sailed up in the air, landing just behind Ryan Babel, who reacted too slowly to fire it home.

But from that moment on, he was solidity itself.

Chelsea took the lead three minutes later, captain Cesar Azpilicueta crossing from the right, after Willian had slipped the ball to him, and the onrushing Gonzalo Higuain converted.

Then Kepa produced a string of accomplished saves, notably in the 27th minute as Aleksandar Mitrovic booted a left-foot point-blank volley at the keeper, only for Kepa to turn it over the bar.

The fact that the resulting corner led to an equaliser from Calum Chambers was down to poor defensive marking at the far stick, rather than goalkeeping frailty.

Shortly after the half-hour mark, Jorginho conjured up a glorious volley from distance, while the Whites – under Scott Parker for the first time – were busy complaining to ref Graham Scott that they should have had a foul. Ignoring the kerfuffle, Jorginho just got on with it, and scored.

And that proved to be the winner on a cold, wet, desolate and windswept afternoon at the Cottage.

In the second half, in front of 24,900 fans now seemingly resigned to playing next season in the Championship, Kepa made a good 66th-minute save from Fulham captain Tom Cairney, then got back to his feet to similarly save a follow-up effort.

Then, right at the death with just two minutes remaining, he made another flying save to deny Mitrovic what would have been the equaliser.

The ever-dangerous Ryan Sessegnon thought he’d netted a leveller deep into the five minutes of stoppage time, but it was ruled out for offside. Had Fulham turned in a few more combative performances like this one in recent months, they wouldn’t be staring at relegation.

Next up for the Blues, the visit of Dynamo Kiev on Thursday.