LONDON (AFP) – Maurizio Sarri declared the Kepa Arrizabalaga controversy was over after the Chelsea goalkeeper began to make amends for his Wembley mutiny with an impressive display in Sunday night’s 2-1 win at Fulham.
Sarri’s side took the lead through Gonzalo Higuain before Calum Chambers equalised at Craven Cottage.
In an incident-packed first half, the much-maligned Jorginho restored Chelsea’s lead with his first goal since the opening weekend of the season.
Chelsea were indebted to Kepa for a series of superb saves that preserved their lead after the break, lifting the sixth-placed Blues within two points of fourth-placed Manchester United, with a game in hand.
Sarri had dropped Kepa for Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Tottenham last Wednesday as punishment for the Spaniard’s refusal to be substituted during the League Cup final defeat against Manchester City.
But Sarri had insisted Kepa remained his “first choice” and the world’s most expensive keeper returned in place of Willy Caballero after his one-game demotion.
Revealing he didn’t tell Kepa he had been recalled until a team meeting on the day of the game, Sarri said, “He played very well. It was a normal decision. He made a big mistake, he paid for it. Now the situation is closed.
“I can kill him, but I don’t think it is right. With another man I could have done it in another way, but I know him well.
“He has a good mentality. His behaviour during the week was very good.
“Kepa is a man. He was able to react very well, as we have seen today.”
Sarri believes Chelsea’s revival this week, coupled with Tottenham’s poor form, has made the top-four chase even tighter.
“We had a great opportunity today. Now we are only two points from the top four. We have to fight to the last minute of the last match,” he said.
“We are fighting. In the last four matches I think we did well.”