Thursday, 21 October, 2021
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Chelsea edge out Villarreal to win Super Cup

Chelsea edge out Villarreal to win Super Cup
Chelsea players and staff pose with the trophy during the presentation ceremony after they win the UEFA Super Cup against Villarreal at Windsor Park in Belfast on Wednesday. — AFP photo

Kepa Arrizabalaga was the unlikely hero as Chelsea started the new season as they ended the last with a European trophy by beating Villarreal 6-5 on penalties after a 1-1 draw to win the UEFA Super Cup in Belfast.

The Spaniard, who has lost his place as number one since joining the club for a world record fee for a goalkeeper in 2018, was introduced late in extra-time as a substitute for the shootout by Thomas Tuchel.

Kepa famously refused to be replaced by former Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri in a League Cup final defeat to Manchester City two years ago.

But this time he rewarded his manager's faith with saves from Aissa Mandi and Raul Albiol.

"It was not spontaneous," said Tuchel who explained the plan had been hatched in the FA Cup last season.

"There is proof that Kepa is better in this discipline. They're team players. Edouard does not show the pride to not step off the field. He was happy to do it for the team and take this for the team."

Chelsea's win over Manchester City in Porto to lift the Champions League for a second time in May was the culmination of a meteoric rise in Tuchel's first five months in charge.

Hakim Ziyech had a bittersweet evening as he continued his fine pre-season form into competitive action with the opening goal. However, the Moroccan was forced off before half-time in a sling by a shoulder injury.

The Spaniards finally got their deserved equaliser when Moreno played a clever one-two with Dia before firing high past Mendy. Neither manager would have welcomed an extra 30 minutes just days before their respective league campaigns kick-off.

Chelsea had the better of extra-time as Christian Pulisic fired inches wide before Sergio Asenjo produced a fine save to deny Mount. Asenjo also gave Villarreal a dream start to the shootout by saving from Havertz.

But Chelsea were flawless with their next six spot-kicks to allow Kepa to take centre stage.