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Kepa defiance 'not helpful' but Chelsea legend hoping to avoid 'witch hunt'

14:55 GMT+3 26/02/2019
Kepa Arrizabalaga Chelsea 2018-19
The Spanish keeper refused to be substituted during the Carabao Cup final, but Pat Nevin is backing the Blues to move on from an unfortunate episode

Chelsea are being backed to move on swiftly from Kepa Arrizabalaga’s act of defiance in the Carabao Cup final, with Pat Nevin admitting that the club are eager to avoid a “witch hunt”.

The Spanish goalkeeper made headlines on Sunday for all of the wrong reasons when he refused to be substituted during a meeting with Manchester City at Wembley Stadium.

Maurizio Sarri was eager to replace the 24-year-old in the closing stages of extra-time after seeing him require treatment, with Willy Caballero readied to come on against his former club.

Kepa, though, waved his manager’s calls away, before suffering a 4-3 defeat in a penalty shootout, and has since been fined for his actions.

The Chelsea camp were quick to claim a “misunderstanding” afterwards, but the issue of player power has dragged on long after the first piece of silverware in 2019 was handed out.

Nevin hopes the incident can soon be swept under the carpet, with those at Stamford Bridge keen to avoid any more distractions in an ongoing bid for a top-four finish and Europa League glory.

The Blues legend told the club’s official website: “The Kepa situation at the end was, of course, not particularly helpful.

“The manager must have the final decision on substitutions and Kepa will know that by now even if emotion took over in the moment. Clearly, our keeper thought he was fit enough to continue, and indeed he was, but he couldn’t know the boss’s thinking.

“Maybe the manager felt that taking a chance with his previously injured hamstring wasn’t worth the risk.

“He could have been very badly injured leaping to make a penalty save that could have kept him out for months. Why do that when you have one substitution and another classy keeper left?

“He might even have thought that Willy Caballero was a better penalty saver full stop; other managers have changed goalies before a penalty shoot-out for exactly that reason.

“He could have been thinking that Willy knows the City players better and that could have helped psyche Sterling and co. out.

“It will be dealt with internally and if not forgotten, its importance will soon fade. I think everyone at Chelsea can spot a bandwagon and even a witch hunt a mile away by now, so we move on.

“In the end and far more importantly it was a good, hard-fought display and if that attitude is kept for the rest of the season then a top-four finish and a long run in the Europa League is still a distinct possibility.”

Chelsea are due back in action on Wednesday against old adversaries Tottenham, with Kepa expected to retain his place for a crunch clash at Stamford Bridge despite rebelling against Sarri and the Blues coaching staff.