Before the kick-off of the new season of English Premier League, it was time for the Champions League winner – Chelsea to boost their morale against Villarreal at the UEFA Super Cup. Thomas Tuchel played a gamble with Kepa Arrizabalaga, who came on as a substitute in Belfast and denied both Aissa Mandi and Raul Albiol to win the title.

It was the first time the Super Cup was played in Northern Ireland and 13,000 spectators generated a fantastic atmosphere in the south Belfast stadium, the highest attendance at any sports event in the country since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chelsea took the lead at first through Hakim Ziyech, whose  goal arrived in the 27th minute when the lively Kai Havertz ran on to a ball into the left channel and delivered a precise pull-back, with Ziyech directing his shot in despite not getting a clean connection.

The opening 40 minutes were something of a stroll for Chelsea as they imposed themselves on Villarreal, not giving their Spanish opponents a glimmer of hope until just before the break.

N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic in midfield provided a base from which to apply pressure on Villarreal, with Kovacic’s diagonal balls to Callum Hudson-Odoi on the right particularly penetrating.

Timo Werner had their first chance in the sixth minute, having his close-range volley well saved by Sergio Asenjo, while Kante flashed just wide from 20 yards before Zouma volleyed an excellent chance over the bar.

Ziyech then clashed with Juan Foyth and went down, requiring oxygen treatment and going off the pitch with his right shoulder having to be supported amid a chaotic closing few minutes to the first half.

Villarreal grew into the tie as former Liverpool man Alberto Moreno rattling the crossbar before the break and Gerard Moreno hitting the post early in the second half, with Chelsea allowing the Spaniards into the tie with some misplaced passes at the back.

The latter of the two aforementioned Morenos didn’t need asking twice and took his chance to become the club’s record goal-scorer on 83.

Antonio Rudiger stepped up and he burst inside to find space unmarked in the box and clip the ball beyond Edouard Mendy.

Showing the signs of rustiness which can be expected at this stage of the season, neither side could find a breakthrough to win the match in either 90 or 120 minutes.

Chelsea goalkeeper Mendy didn’t make it as far as the penalty shootout, though, as Thomas Tuchel gambled and brought on Kepa Arrizabalaga for the shoot-out.

It was the other Spanish goalkeeper, Asenjo, who wanted to become the hero by denying Kai Havertz with the very first penalty of the shootout, but Kepa’s save from Aissa Mandi levelled the score.

The substitute would be the man to make the difference as he denied Villarreal captain Raul Albiol to win the Super Cup for Chelsea for only the second time in their history, the first since 1998.

Regarding his gamble, Tuchel said to BT Sport, “It was not spontaneous. We talked about it with the goalkeepers after the first cup game against Barnsley [in the FA Cup last season]. We had some statistics. We were well prepared.”

“Kepa has the best percentage at saving penalties, the analysing guys and goalkeeping coaches showed me the data. We spoke to the players that this could happen when we play in knockout games. It’s fantastic how Edouard accepted it.”

“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.”

Both goalkeepers also spoke about the move, with Mendy saying that winning trophies is a team effort that sometimes even requires two goalkeepers.

“I’m happy because we won,” Mendy said.

“I knew since last year that if Kepa came on the pitch he would help the team. It’s a team effort. We play for Chelsea and for success. We did this today together.”

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Kepa added, “It’s not a typical situation but we arrived to penalties after Edouard did a fantastic job. Finally we won and we are so happy. I was ready because I knew this could happen. I tried to be ready mentally and physically.”

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