MAURIZIO SARRI walked away from his first final as a coach with his reputation enhanced and with Chelsea more confident.
Which makes life for club owner Roman Abramovich that bit more difficult as a result.
A spanking by Manchester City similar to the 6-0 pummelling suffered on February 10 would have left nobody in any doubt about the manager’s future. It would be curtains.
But containing the cavalier Premier League champions, then taking the game to them for long periods in the second half and into extra time means even cynical Chelsea fans may just be buying into the ‘Sarri-ball’ game plan again after weeks of deflation.
The gobsmacking act of insubordination by keeper Kepa was the only blot on the day. Whether it will impact on the manager’s future is unlikely. Even David Luiz’s fateful penalty miss was at least honest.
Abramovich was absent from Wembley but watching remotely. He would struggle to believe the Chelsea team which finished the game was the same as that which started it – such was the reawakening in an impressive second half.
Motivation, determination, commitment, mentality: all those boxes were ticked as Sarri’s team at first soaked up City’s inevitable pressure then exhibited strains of the old Chelsea with sheer will–to-win.
Sarri’s tactical reshuffle had the knock on effect that made his substitutions fresh compared to his stale selections that have prompted so much criticism.
Chelsea’s supporters lifted at the sight of Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek – two academy kids being given game time in a major final.
The team was already on the up with a much improved second half performance but Hudson-Odoi in particular was a more direct outlet for play into danger areas for City.
Where Chelsea kicked off at 4.30pm rank underdogs with a team frightened of its own shadow they finished with chests puffed out and a sign that they can still go toe-to-toe with the Premier League’s best – as can Sarri after a worrying period in his career.
LATEST CHELSEA NEWS