Chelsea lift Super Cup in Belfast as Kepa stars as unlikely penalty hero

Chelsea lift Super Cup in Belfast as Kepa stars as unlikely penalty hero

CHELSEA have won the UEFA Super Cup for just the second time in their history after beating Villarreal 6-5 in a dramatic penalty shootout at Windsor Park in Belfast last night.

Kepa Arrizabalaga was the unlikely hero after being subbed on with less than two minutes to play before going on to save two Villarreal spot-kicks.

It was the first time the Super Cup - a final which pits the winner of last season's Champions League against the winner of last season's Europa League - was played in Northern Ireland.

13,000 spectators gathered at the south Belfast stadium, the highest attendance at any sports event in the country since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hakim Ziyech gave Chelsea a thoroughly deserved lead in the first half, but was forced off later with a worrying-looking shoulder injury.

The Spaniards hit the woodwork either side of the break before eventually equalising through Gerard Moreno to send the game to extra time.

When 120 minutes of football failed to separate them, penalties were needed, but not before Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel played his final hand.

On came Kepa, very much the forgotten man in Chelsea's star-studded squad, as he was deemed a better spot-kick saver than first-choice keeper Edouard Mendy.

Kepa Arrizabalaga (L) comes on for Edouard Mendy (R) minutes before the match went to penalties

Despite Kai Havertz missing Chelsea's first effort in the shootout, Kepa saved from Aissa Mandi and Raul Albiol to hand the trophy to the Blues.

After the game, Tuchel explained the reason behind his daring substitution.

"It was not spontaneous. We talked about it with the goalkeepers when we came and had the first cup game against Barnsley," the German said.

"So we had some statistics, we were well prepared, [knowing] that Kepa is the best percentage at saving penalties.

"The analysing guys, the goalkeeping coaches showed me, introduced me to the data and then we spoke with the players that this can happen when we play in knockout games.

"And since then they know it. It’s fantastic how Edou accepts it, it’s fantastic how this talk went on the morning before the cup game against Barnsley – and since then they know.

"Of course, we needed to do what’s best for the team so if we needed a sixth change before it was necessary… but I’m happy that it worked."

Chelsea players rush to celebrate with Arrizabalaga after his penalty heroics

Chelsea's Mason Mount (L) celebrates with Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva (R) following the Blues' UEFA Super Cup victory on Wednesday