Chelsea star Enzo Fernandez was spotted intervening in an argument between team-mates Cole Palmer and Raheem Sterling as both players wanted to take their first-half penalty against Arsenal on Saturday. The former Man City and Liverpool star’s cross was handled by William Saliba, but both Sterling and Palmer put their hands up to take the spot-kick.
After Palmer had slotted calmly past David Raya to give the Blues a 1-0 lead, footage emerged of the £45million summer signing quarrelling with Sterling over who would get the chance to score from 12 yards – before Fernandez rushed over and made the decision to hand the ball to Palmer.
The penalty itself had been contentious as Sterling’s cross was intended for Mykhaylo Mudryk and the Ukrainian got a slight touch before the ball hit Saliba’s arm. After a VAR check, the referee pointed to the spot and Chelsea had a chance to take a lead against their London rivals.
Palmer had scored a penalty in the Blues’ last game before the international break – a 4-1 win away to Burnley – but Sterling may have felt that as the senior player he should have been tasked with taking the pressure penalty.
Manchester United icon Gary Neville, on commentary for the game, admitted that he was sure that a penalty was going to be given despite his own doubts over whether Saliba’s movement merited an infringement. “It hits William Saliba’s arm, there is no doubt about that. I think he could be in a little bit of bother here,” he said on Sky Sports.
“Coming off the back of the Everton game earlier (Michael Keane was adjudged to have handled for Liverpool’s opening goal), I would say this is going to be given I would say. This is all about whether Saliba’s arm is there because he is trying to win the ball – it’s certainly above, out and away from his body. Is he just using that arm for leverage or to gain an advantage? The fact is it doesn’t matter. None of us are sure what a penalty is anymore but that is consistent with what we saw in the Merseyside derby today.”