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Kepa shootout heroics hands Chelsea first Super Cup in 23 years

Substitute goalkeeper saved two penalties in the shootout to lead Chelsea to title

Chelsea defeated Villarreal 6-5 on penalties, with substitute goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga proving to be the difference in the shootout in the UEFA Super Cup between the Champions League winners and Europa League winners at Windsor Park in Belfast, Ireland.

Having lost in its last three consecutive UEFA Super Cup appearances, Chelsea under Thomas Tuchel was looking to achieve something no manager had done in the Roman Abramovich era by winning the UEFA Super Cup. Tuchel had the luxury of leaving out all of the players that resumed late for preseason following their participation in tournaments during the summer and kept faith in the side he put out in preseason, even handing a debut to youngster Trevoh Chalobah, who was on the pitch for 12o minutes. Chelsea started the match very evidently on the front foot, with Timo Werner forcing a smart reaction stop from Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo and N’Golo Kante shooting narrowly wide after picking up the ball in midfield. When the Blues finally got their goal, it was through Moroccan forward Hakim Ziyech. Marcos Alonso sent Kai Havertz free down the left, and the German played an intelligent cutback to Ziyech, whose effort scooped up over the despairing Asenjo into the back of the net in the 27th minute. That was to be the forward’s last contribution before being forced off with a shoulder injury shortly after the half-hour mark. Villarreal ended the half strongly and should have equalised after a fine run and cross from Gerard Moreno was volleyed viciously against the crossbar by Alberto Moreno on the stroke of halftime.

When both teams emerged for the second half, it looked like Villarreal were the only side that turned up as they applied pressure on Chelsea, with Gerard Moreno only missing out on an equaliser by inches thanks to a combination of Edouard Mendy and the frame of the goal. The Yellow Submarines eventually found the goal they so desired after a period of time in which Chelsea could not find an out ball from their defence; Moreno played a brilliant one-two with strike partner Boulaye Dia before striking a sweet shot into the top corner from inside the box after 73 minutes. The goal seemed to take the sting out of the game as both sides understandably took their feet off the gas for the rest of the game.

In extra-time, Chelsea asked the questions as they pinned Villarreal back, and it only took a brilliant save from Asenjo to deny substitute Mason Mount a well-worked goal. The telling moment in the game came after 119 minutes, when Chelsea boss Tuchel took off his first-choice goalkeeper Mendy for Chelsea’s record-signing Kepa Arrizabalaga with penalties in mind. Despite Kai Havertz missing the first kick of the shootout, Kepa saved two Villarreal kicks from Aissa Mandi and the match-winner from Villarreal captain Raul Albiol to give Chelsea its first silverware of the season.

Chelsea’s Super Cup triumph was their 18th major trophy in the 18 years Roman Abramovich has been in charge, making them the most successful English club in this period. It was also their first Super Cup title since 1998, and the first of the Abramovich era. It made them the only club in history to have won all four major European titles at least twice, having won the UEFA Champions League (2012, 2021), UEFA Europa League (2013, 2019), UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup (1971, 1998) and UEFA Super Cup (1998, 2021).

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