Chelsea began the new season with a European trophy, just as they ended the previous one by beating Villarreal 6-5 on penalties after a 1-1 draw to win the UEFA Super Cup in Belfast.
He was brought in as a late replacement in extra time by Thomas Tuchel, who had already given up his starting position after joining the club for a then-world-record transfer cost for a goalkeeper in 2018.
During a League Cup final defeat to Manchester City two years ago, Kepa made headlines when he refused to be substituted by then Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri.
However, he was able to repay his manager’s trust by making saves from Aissa Mandi and Raul Albiol this time.
“It was not a spontaneous decision,” claimed Tuchel, who went on to explain that the idea had been devised during last season’s FA Cup.
The goalkeepers and I discussed it following the first round of the FA Cup against Barnsley,” said the coach.
“Kepa has the highest proportion of saves when it comes to penalties, according to the statistics provided by the data analysts and goalkeeping coaches. We warned the players that this may happen if they were selected to participate in the knockout stage. It’s incredible how Edouard (Mendy) handled the situation.
“There is evidence to suggest that Kepa is superior in this field. Edouard does not have the courage to leave the field of play since he is proud of himself. He was delighted to do it for the team and to accept this award on their behalf.”
Chelsea’s 2-1 victory against Manchester City in Porto in May to win the Champions League for a second time was the climax of a spectacular ascent during Tuchel’s first season
Romelu Lukaku is set to complete his transfer to Chelsea later this week for a club-record fee of £97 million ($135 million). The German has expressed displeasure at having to manage a 42-man team during pre-season, but he will have even more firepower to rely on when the season begins.
Tuchel’s depth of resources, on the other hand, was evident from the beginning.
Hakim Ziyech had a bittersweet evening as he converted the opening goal of the game to carry over his excellent pre-season form into competitive play.
After Marcos Alonso passed to Kai Havertz down the right flank, the German’s low cross was met by Ziyech, who swept the ball home.
A shoulder injury, though, caused the Moroccan forward to leave the field before half-time in a sling.
Villarreal’s Europa League final triumph over Manchester United in May won the club’s first-ever silverware, in sharp contrast to Chelsea‘s total of over 20 trophies in the nearly 20 years since Roman Abramovich’s acquisition changed the club.
Being two goals behind prompted the Yellow Submarine to come out of their shell after an excessively cautious start by Unai Emery’s players, and they were unlucky not to be level before half-time.
In a statement, Emery said he was “happy to represent Villarreal, our initiative, and the Spanish league.” “We were well-versed in the art of competing.”
Mendy made a darting run off his line to deny Boulaye Dia a goal on his debut, while Villarreal struck the woodwork twice in the aftermath of the opening goals by Alberto Moreno and Gerard Moreno.
The second half saw Villarreal establish themselves as the dominant force, as Chelsea began to physically tire following their blistering start.
As Mount, Jorginho, and Andreas Christensen were added, Tuchel resorted to his bench in an attempt to stem the flow.
But Moreno ultimately earned his team’s much-deserved equalizer, after playing a brilliant one-two with Dia and hitting a powerful shot beyond Mendy.
The addition of 30 minutes would have been appreciated by neither manager only a few days before the start of their respective league seasons.
During extra time, Chelsea had the upper hand as Christian Pulisic shot inches wide before Sergio Asenjo made a spectacular stop to deny Mount.
Furthermore, Asenjo provided Villarreal with a dream start to the shootout by stopping a penalty shot from Havertz.
Chelsea, on the other hand, were faultless with their next six penalty kicks, allowing Kepa to take center stage.