August 12 – Redemption comes in many forms. The 119th-minute substitute goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga led Chelsea to victory in the European Super Cup with two saves in the penalty shout-out to see off Villarreal following an entertaining 1-1 draw.
It was a big call from Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel to bring on the much-maligned Spanish goalkeeper at the very end of the extra-time, but Kepa delivered and the 2021 Champions League winners opened the new season in style with a first trophy.
The London club had been on the front-foot for much of the first half, with an industrious Hakim Ziyech. The Moroccan was the creative outlet for a whirlwind Chelsea and in the 27th minute he secured the Blues’ breakthrough. Kai Havertz’s low centre sat up neatly for Ziyech to loft the ball just outside the reach of the helpless Sergio Asenjo.
But Chelsea’s half of dominance ended chaotically when the goalscorer limped off injured and Alberto Moreno smashed a volley against the crossbar. Villareal had been off the pace, but returned from the dressing room vastly improved. Again, the ‘Yellow Submarine’ was thwarted by the woodwork – this time when Gerard Moreno almost exploited a hesitation from Chelsea goalkeeper Eduard Mendy.
But Villarreal’s goal was coming and they got their deserved equalizer when they pinched the ball following sloppy English defending and Moreno side-footed a finish into the top corner from a Boulaye Dia back heel.
And so, for the fourth year running, the Super Cup needed extra-time. Not that the locals were rueful. It was Belfast’s party and on the eve of the match Irish Football Association chief executive Patrick Nelson said they want to bid for a Women’s Champions League final in the future.
In the bonus half-hour, Christian Pulisic toe-poked a major chance just wide. With penalties looming, Chelsea switched custodians with Kepa substituting Mendy and the young Spaniard became the shout-out hero, saving the deciding penalty from the godfather of Villarreal’s team Raul Albiol.
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