MAURIZIO SARRI made the right call in binning keeper Kepa for the midweek win over Tottenham.
Yet Chelsea’s manager also was correct in welcoming back his stroppy number one for the west London derby with Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Getty – Contributor Kepa returned to the starting XI for the 2-1 win over Fulham
Sarri, already with enough problems of his own at this basket case of a club, needs his best players starting matches and that includes the Spaniard.
Kepa’s absence at Stamford Bridge was effectively a one-match ban for his stroppy behaviour by refusing to come off in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley.
There will be those who feel Kepa – aside from his one-week fine – should have been punished further.
And while Wily Caballero will surely return for Thursday’s Europa League clash Dynamo Kiev, it will be Kepa back in goal to take on Wolves next Sunday.
Getty Images – Getty Maurizio Sarri’s side continued their push towards the top four with a win over Fulham
Because if Chelsea are to somehow get into the top four, they certainly need the bloke who cost them £71million.
Despite one early shaky moment which could have ended in disaster and total embarrassment, he did pretty well in a hard-fought 2-1 win.
Particularly in the second half when Fulham were on top and were pushing for an equaliser which – on the balance of play – they probably deserved.
Apart from one wayward shot from Joe Bryan, Kepa had very little to do until that 18th minute incident which could so easily have put in in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
Kevin McDonald’s lofted cross into the area seemed simple enough for the keeper to collect but the vicious, swirling wind must have played a part and he dropped the ball.
Incredibly, as he fumbled, Ryan Babel turned his back on the keeper and completely switched off.
Had he been more alert, Babel would have comfortably stuck the ball into the net but Kepa was able to redeem himself.
After Gonzalo Higuain delivered a decent finish a couple of minutes later for 1-0, Kepa pulled off a decent save to tip over a volley from Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Getty – Contributor Kepa in action during the win over Fulham at Craven Cottage
From the resulting short corner, however, Babel crossed from the left and Calum Chambers was left completely unmarked to level. Kepa did not stand a chance.
Chelsea midfielder Jorginho made it 2-1 before Kepa opposite number- Serio Rico – made some decent saves.
It was midway inside the second half when Kepa was forced into action again, pushing away a shot from Tom Cairney, with Fulham enjoying a decent spell.
Kepa made another decent save to deny Bryan and then – with two minutes left- pushed a header away from Mitrovic.
Reuters Kepa refused to be subbed off during the Carabao Cup final defeat to Manchester City
And when he was beaten in injury-time by Ryan Sessegnon, Kepa was saved by the linesman’s flag.
Kepa player will always be remembered for his petulance in a Wembley final and there is nothing he can do to change that.
Equally, he owes both Sarri and Chelsea’s fan some major performances over the next couple of months and this was at least a start.
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