Kepa Arrizabalaga‘s superb display in the penalty shootout earned Chelsea a remarkable start to the 2021/22 season as they beat Villarreal in the UEFA Super Cup final.
The Blues were not toying in this final as Thomas Tuchel displayed one of the strongest line-ups. With this win, the German coach has won two trophies in a span of eight months. On the other hand, it was heartbreak for the yellow submarines who had recently won their first-ever European title. However, Villarreal was brass-bound and put up a fight similar to the one they did against Manchester United.
Kepa Arrizabalaga Hands Chelsea Trophy After Superb Display
Chelsea Earn Hard Win
The match started the way everyone had expected. Chelsea went guns-blazing and Villarreal was happy to defend it. However, the English side’s approach finally broke the resilient Spanish side. It was in the 27th minute that the Blues took the lead thanks to a ruthless shot from Hakim Ziyech.
Villarreal committed a rare error that saw them lose possession on the edge of their own box. This was collected by Kai Havertz who rushed down to the left flank and delivered a pin-point cross. This accurate delivery was placed perfectly by the Moroccan midfielder hence giving them the lead.
However, Villarreal was destined to score the equaliser because this team had always found a way out. They came out fighting in the second half but luck wasn’t on their side. Their star player, Gerard Moreno saw all his attempts hit the post. After multiple failed attempts, his grit paid off when in the 73rd minute, he scored the equaliser from a marvellous team move.
Villarreal was pushing for the penalties and they had one more hurdle to pass. After scoring the equaliser, the match went into extra time. Chelsea was trying their best to avoid going to the penalties. They did threaten on various occasions but their opposition guarded till the final whistle blew.
Kepa Arrizabalaga became the world’s expensive goalkeeper when he moved to Chelsea in 2018 for a fee of £72 million. He had the perfect start at Stamford Bridge with back-to-back brilliant performances. However, the following season he made silly errors that made him lose his spot.
His struggles had begun the previous year itself. But in the 2020/21 season, he was completely shunned and became a benchwarmer. The performances put up by Edouard Mendy were way superior to that of Kepa’s. However, the Super Cup final was his night for redemption.
We are all well aware of the incident that took place in the EFL Cup final on 24th February 2019. Maurizio Sarri wanted to bring on Willy Cabarello for the penalty shootouts. But, Kepa refused the decision. Although he made a save, they lost 4-3 to Manchester City. Something similar to that happened last night. This time it was Kepa who was subbed on with few minutes remaining to defend the penalties.
Earlier this year, Tuchel had revealed the data analysis made by the goalkeeping coaches showing Cabarello was statistically the best at Chelsea in this area followed by Kepa and then Mendy. Since Cabarello left in June, Kepa was the first in line. Tuchel might have had his doubts, but he trusted the statistics enough to risk it.
And Kepa Arrizabalaga repaid the trust. He made two crucial saves which led to his side winning the penalties 6-5. Chelsea will now be turning their attention to the weekend where they will be playing Crystal Palace for the commencement of the Premier League while Villarreal faces Granada in the La Liga opener.
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