Kepa Arrizabalaga returned to the Chelsea starting line up today. He was dropped for Chelsea’s 2-0 derby win against Tottenham Hotspur, following the League Cup shenanigans surrounding his substitution- or lack of it. However, he was reinstated for the club’s second London derby in two games, as they won 2-1 against Fulham.
There was a shaky start from the stopper, as in the 18th minute he spilled a ball into the box which should have been taken easily. He got away with his error though, as Ryan Babel (who’d been the ball’s target) turned his back on Kepa. This allowed the Spaniard to retrieve the ball before any further embarrassment could be caused.
10 minutes after that incident, with the score now at 1-0 after Gonzalo Higuain’s opening goal, Kepa made a terrific save. Aleksandar Mitrovic had fired a powerful header towards the top corner, but Kepa was equal to it and tipped it over the bar. However, he won’t have been happy with what followed. Ryan Sessegnon played the ensuing corner short to Babel who sent the ball towards the back post. Calum Chambers was found completely unmarked and scored with a first time finish that the goalkeeper had no chance of stopping.
Jorginho put the men in blue ahead in the 31st minute, giving Chelsea the lead going into half time. Kepa didn’t have that much to do for the majority of the second half, as Chelsea kept Fulham’s attacking talents at bay for large periods of time. The goalkeeper looked comfortable on the ball, as he usually does, passing the ball out from the back in the way Maurizio Sarri desires. He also saved efforts from Tom Cairney and Joe Bryan convincingly.
It wasn’t until the 88th minute when he was truly challenged again. Fulham substitute Floyd Ayite had made a darting run behind the Chelsea defence. The Togo international hooked the ball towards Mitrovic who powered a header towards the goal. The Serbian had plenty of space to aim for, but while it was a good effort, he placed his shot just within Kepa’s range. The Spaniard palmed the ball away from goal well, getting it to safety.
Chelsea were given another defensive scare in the 94th minute. Sessegnon had latched onto the ball in the box after Luciano Vietto had nudged it towards goal. The young Englishman finished well, sending the ball into the net with a first touch finish. However, Chelsea’s three points were saved by the linesman, as he raised his flag flagged for offside.
There were no more real chances in the game and Kepa marked his return to the starting line up with a win, even if he hadn’t quite managed a clean sheet. He may have got back into the team, but it is likely he’ll immediately be back out of it again- though this time not for disciplinary reasons. Chelsea host Dynamo Kyiv in the Europa League on Thursday, meaning Willy Caballero is likely to temporarily return to the Chelsea goal, before Kepa retakes his place between the sticks for Chelsea’s next league match, at home against Wolves.
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