Growing up in the shadow of this stadium, Raheem Sterling no doubt dreamed of occasions like this. Not in his wildest imaginings, however, could his crowning moment have taken place in such surreal surroundings.
A match-winning penalty, sure. In a shoot-out, why not? For a trophy, certainly. Yet the chaos that unfolded around it. The confusion that embraced Chelsea minutes before the penalty drama.
No-one dreams that, because football does not work like that. Sterling might as well have imagined his teeth falling out one by one, or deciding to score the winner in his Y-fronts, as a scenario in which Chelsea’s goalkeeper is substituted but decides instead to as good as tell his manager to get stuffed.
Manchester City players let out a roar of relief after Sterling stepped up to score the winning penalty in the shootout
Players in sky blue shirts sank to their knees in relief after Sterling’s pen hit the back of the net and the cup was retained
Moments earlier, Leroy Sane had seen his penalty saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga, which briefly put the sides all square
But up stepped David Luiz, who hammered his penalty onto the post to miss from 12-yards on the big stage
Sergio Aguero’s penalty looked to have been saved, but the ball squeezed under Kepa Arrizabalaga and into the corner
Midfielder Jorginho had taken the first penalty of the shootout, and missed after chipping the ball following a stuttered run
Publicly. In front of 80,000 fans. Who comes up with this Chelsea soap opera? Who writes this stuff? For if it is real, it is no way to run a football club.
The scenes prior to the shoot-out were some of the most dramatic that this competition, that any competition, has seen.
Kepa Arrizabalaga, Chelsea’s goalkeeper, had twice been down for treatment in second-half injury time. Each time he made a save, he needed work. Maurizio Sarri had, understandably, seen enough with penalties looming. He elected to bring on Willy Caballero, his replacement, who had performed magnificently in a League Cup final shoot out here before, for Manchester City against Liverpool.
Arrizabalaga said he was fine to continue. Then, as Cabellero stood embarrassed in the pitchside technical area, he as good as refused to go, pouring out his frustration to team-mate David Luiz.
Quite bizarre scenes unfolded at the end of extra-time, as Maurizio Sarri had Willy Caballero ready to come on in goal
First choice Kepa Arrizabalaga had gone down with cramp, but immediately insisted he was good to continue playing
Sarri suddenly became furious on the touchline, appearing to have made up his mind that Caballero would be coming on
As Arrizabalaga continually refused, Caballero had to take off his gloves and take his seat back on the substitutes’ bench
A late scramble in the Chelsea area almost saw Manchester City grab a last gasp goal in extra-time at Wembley
CHELSEA: Kepa, Azpilicueta, Rüdiger, David Luiz, Emerson, Kanté, Jorginho, Barkley (Loftus-Cheek 88′), Willian (Higuain 95′), Hazard, Pedro (Hudson-Odoi 79′)
SUBS NOT USED: Caballero, Christiansen, Kovacic, Giroud
BOOKED: David Luiz, Rudiger, Jorginho
MANAGER: Maurizio Sarri
MANCHESTER CITY: Ederson, Zinchenko, Laporte (Kompany 45′), Otamendi, Walker, Fernandinho (Danilo 90′), Silva (Gundogan 78′), De Bruyne (Sane 85′), Bernardo, Sterling, Aguero
SUBS NOT USED: Muric, Mahrez, Foden
BOOKED: Fernandinho, Otamendi
MANAGER: Pep Guardiola
REF: Jon Moss
Referee Jon Moss got involved, but instead of telling Arrizabalaga his game was over, he acted as mediator, shutting between the disgruntled goalkeeper and his by now equally agitated manager.
The game was restarted with Arrizabalaga intact. Now Sarri really lost it. He waved his arms in fury, stormed down the tunnel as if sick of the lot of them, thought better of it, and reappeared. Caballero, a decent guy, now humiliated by the judgement of his team-mate, could be seen being counselled.
At the final whistle, Chelsea went into a huddle of disarray with Sarri at first appearing to be held back from confronting some of his players. When the shoot out began, his talisman, Jorginho stepped up, hit a penalty as poor as Chelsea’s morale looked, and gave an easy save to Ederson’s left.
It wasn’t a shoot out that justified the protagonists. Sergio Aguero’s penalty was soft and went under Arrizabalaga’s body and when he saved from :Leroy Sane to put Chelsea level, it was Luiz his on-field ally, who stepped up and missed.
Given what happened the last time these teams met, nobody would blame Chelsea for setting up with a degree of caution.
On the evidence of the first-half, however, it would appear that Maurizio Sarri had taken the fans advice on what to do with the form of football that bears his name. There was nothing ambitious or expansive about this, little that suggested possession and passing were being prioritised.
When Pedro got an ineffectual header on a Willian free-kick after 25 minutes and 36 seconds, it represented Chelsea’s first touch in the Manchester City penalty area.
Jorginho received a yellow in the dying moments before extra-time, following a calculated foul on Sterling to halt a City break
Brazil international Ederson was at full stretch to prevent Chelsea taking the lead in the latter stages of the contest
Maurizio Sarri could not hide his disappointment after Pedro passed up the opportunity to shoot when put through on goal
VAR came into use shortly into the second half, as a Manchester City strike from Sergio Aguero was correctly deemed offside
Aguero was slightly offside when the ball fell to him from a corner and he poked it home – and Chelsea immediately appealed
The Argentine looked across with hopeful eyes at the linesman, only to see the flag raised in the air
Eden Hazard had barely got into double figures with touches of the ball, when he finally got loose of Manchester City’s defensive shackles in the minute before half-time.
Hazard was deployed in his least favourite role – that of false nine – but it was not so much false as illusionary. Chelsea were not set up to get him in the game, bar a break against the run of play which, out of nowhere, is what happened.
Hazard, because he is a lovely footballer although not best served right now, simply eased Aymeric Laporte out of his way and cut inside towards goal. At which point reality bit; with no-one in support Hazard merely ran into an increasing number of pale blue shirts until the space, and the move, was crushed.
Seconds later Chelsea won a free-kick which Willian whipped in and Nicolas Otamendi almost turned into his own net under minimal pressure. It would have been a bizarre way for Chelsea to take the lead, but logical in its own way. How else were they going to do it? Maybe Pep Guardiola had seen enough vulnerability in his back line, though, because at half-time Laporte was replaced by Vincent Kompany.
Most frustrating for Guardiola, surely, will have been how little City threatened given Chelsea’s paucity of ambition.
On 16 minutes, David Silva was the only City player who had touched the ball in Chelsea’s area and it took Guardiola’s team until the 22nd minute to muster a shot, when Sergio Aguero fired over from a Bernardo Silva chip.
Their best chance of the first half came after 43 minutes when Oleksandr Zinchenko hit a deep crossfield ball that picked out Otamendi, still lurking after a failed attack, but he turned his shot straight at Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Jorginho made his complaints known after being bundled off the ball by a trio of City opposite in the centre of midfield
Exertion could be seen upon the face of Cezar Azpilicueta, as youngster Oleksandr Zinchenko gave him the runaround
Maurizio Sarri was quickly out and onto the touchline as soon as the game began, barking out commands to his players
David Silva let out a cry of pain after coming under a big challenge from Antonio Rudiger, before a yellow card was shown
Sergio Aguero went close for Manchester City in the opening stages, but could not keep his effort on target
N’Golo Kante put in several solid challenges in as the game quickly heated, felling David Silva under the gaze of ref Jon Moss
Hazard looked a frustrated figure at times, when over-hit passes had too much pace for him to get onto
Brazil international David Luiz quickly attempted to resume leadership responsibilities and re-organise the Chelsea side
Should Zinchenko even have been on the field, some Chelsea fans were asking, after N’Golo Kante was sent tumbling at the end of an early counter attack. Referee Jon Moss decided contact was minimal and that looked about right.
The second-half, however, revealed Chelsea’s game plan in its entirety. Stay in the game and wait for the mistakes to creep into City’s play. So it proved.
Chelsea’s breaks became more dangerous, Hazard started to worry the back line. With a little more support, Chelsea could have won the game in the second-half here, as they did playing a similar system when these teams met at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season.
Fernandinho was booked for a foul having miscontrolled a pass out from goalkeeper Ederson – a sure sign that City were feeling the pressure. Soon enough, Willian had played a ball out from deep that set Hazard away. He got into the penalty area and cut it back for Kante, who shot over. From Chelsea’s next attack, Ross Barkley sent a curling shot just wide.
A packed Wembley watched on, as the last of the sunlight began to leave and the floodlights soon flicked on
Like his managerial counterpart, Guardiola was also frequently patrolling the touchline and sending out instructions
The Spaniard was animated with his gestures, and continued much in the same manner throughout the contest
Chelsea fans were equipped with scarves by the club ahead of the first major final of the domestic season
Manchester City supporters turned their designated end of Wembley a vast shade of light blue as kick-off approached
Then came the best move of the match – and it was Chelsea’s. A delightful sequence of one-touch passes, initially involving David Luiz and Emerson, then Ross Barkley, finally Hazard and Pedro, ended with the Belgian gliding past two opponents. He found Pedro on the overlap, but his team-mate tried to return the favour and Zinchenko blocked. Why didn’t he shoot? The entire Chelsea end seemed to be asking this question.
Aguero got the ball in the net for City but was ruled offside – although replays showed it was by a fraction, if at all – and two Chelsea players got very lucky.
Antonio Rudiger for two bookable fouls on Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva that, because they occurred in the same move, only amounted to one yellow; and Jorginho, for a completely cynical taking out of Raheem Sterling, who would have been through on goal otherwise.
One can only presume that because the incident took place 35 yards out, Jon Moss showed clemency. But it could have been vital.