Chelsea have defeated Villarreal to win the UEFA Super Cup courtesy of Kepa Arrizabalaga’s penalty shootout heroics.
2021 UEFA Super Cupa
Like the Community Shield, UEFA’s curtain-raising title might be lacking in the prestige department, but there’s no denying that Europe’s biggest clubs see it is a tantalising opportunity for silverware.
And Chelsea were sure to line up for their clash in Belfast with some of the best talent available to them, fielding the likes of Kai Havertz, N’Golo Kante and Timo Werner to take on the Spaniards.
Ziyech opens the scoring
It was an all-guns-blazing approach that paid off for the Premier League side during the opening 45 minutes, carrying a 1-0 lead into half-time thanks to a ruthless goal by Hakim Ziyech.
After some fantastic play down the Blues’ left flank, the ball fell to the Moroccan – who was later forced off with a shoulder injury – in the penalty area and he made no mistake with a deft finish.
However, the warning signs from the Yellow Submarine couldn’t be ignored and just before the two sides settled down for the interval, Gerard Moreno rattled the crossbar with a thunderous volley.
Moreno levels the scores
And there was more woodwork agony for Villarreal’s star man after the break with Edouard Mendy narrowly pushing a one-on-one effort from the Spaniard on to the post.
In the end, though, Moreno’s persistence paid off as he made no mistake third time around, crowning a glorious team move from Unai Emery’s side to find the top corner in the 73rd minute.
Extra time in Belfast
From that moment onwards, Villarreal once again retreated into their shells with a defensive brand of football that Manchester United struggled to break down during the Europa League final.
As a result, the game at Windsor Park trundled into an additional 30 minutes, which neither team will have wanted with both the new Premier League and La Liga seasons commencing this weekend.
However, Chelsea did threaten to put the game to bed before the ensuing penalty shoutout, but efforts from Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount ultimately went a-begging.
Tuchel subs on Kepa
And with the scores locked at 1-1 with just a few minutes left in extra time, Thomas Tuchel made the eye-catching decision to substitute Kepa on for Mendy with penalties in mind.
It was, in many ways, the exact reverse of the infamous moment in the 2019 Carabao Cup final when Kepa refused to leave the pitch when Maurizio Sarri wanted to sub on Willy Caballero.
However, on this occasion, there was no fanfare between the two Chelsea goalkeepers and Kepa just had a few brief moments to prepare himself for an onslaught of spot-kicks from Villarreal.
All the way to penalties
Besides, the task was hardly an easy one when you consider that Villarreal scored all 11 of their penalties in the aforementioned Europa League final in which David de Gea famously missed.
But alas, Tuchel’s decision proved to be a stroke of genius with Kepa making two fantastic saves from Aissa Mandi and Raul Albiol in a thrilling penalty shootout that went exactly as follows:
1. Chelsea 0-0 Villarreal – Kai Havertz misses
2. Chelsea 0-1 Villarreal – Gerard Moreno scores
3. Chelsea 1-1 Villarreal – Cesar Azpilicueta scores
4. Chelsea 1-1 Villarreal – Aissa Mandi misses
5. Chelsea 2-1 Villarreal – Marcos Alonso scores
6. Chelsea 2-2 Villarreal – Pervis Estupiñán scores
7. Chelsea 3-2 Villarreal – Mason Mount scores
8. Chelsea 3-3 Villarreal – Moi Gomez scores
9. Chelsea 4-3 Villarreal – Jorginho scores
10. Chelsea 4-4 Villarreal – Dani Raba scores
11. Chelsea 5-4 Villarreal – Christian Pulisic scores
12. Chelsea 5-5 Villarreal – Juan Foyth scores
13. Chelsea 6-5 Villarreal – Antonio Rudiger scores
14. Chelsea 6-5 Villarreal – Raul Albiol misses
WATCH: The moment Kepa saved the day
What a moment for Kepa
After all the turmoil that Kepa has endured since moving to Chelsea in 2019, you could perhaps only forgive Villarreal fans for not cracking a slight smile at the sight of the Spaniard becoming the hero.
When it comes to penalty shootouts, goalkeepers can only ever be the winner and you have to wonder whether Tuchel had that in mind when he turned to the former Athletic Bilbao man.
Chelsea 1-1 Villarreal Super Cup Highlights (Football Terrace)
That being said, lest we forget that Kepa did make a penalty save during that infamous night at Wembley as well as during the Europa League semi-final vs Eintracht Frankfurt later that season.
However, none of that penalty-saving pedigree could possibly compare to the moment that Kepa denied Albiol to grab both his and Chelsea’s second piece of European silverware in three months.
And when you look at the staggering depth and quality within this current Chelsea squad, you wouldn’t be surprised if it was merely the first title of many in a highly-exciting 2021/22 campaign.