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12 August, 2021

How Data & Fresh Legs Triggered Chelsea's Triumph Over Villareal

Chelsea v Villareal - UEFA Super Cup

Pic on Instagram by @Chelsea FC 

Chelsea had planned substitute keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga to face the shootout much before Wednesday's (11th August) game had even begun.

The Champion League winners beat Spain's Villareal 6-5 in a penalty shootout in Belfast to win the UEFA Super Cup.

Spaniard Kepa's better percentage at saving penalties triggered the keeper switch, apart from the fact that he is three years younger to first-choice keeper Edouard Mendy.

Thomas Tuchel, managing Chelsea since January 2021, was provided with shootout statistic by the team's analyzers and goalkeeper coaches well ahead of the Super Cup trophy match.

SI.com says Tuchel was introduced to comparison data on the 26-year-old Kepa and Mendy's shootout saving percentage. 

"It was not spontaneous. We talked about it with the goalkeepers when we came in the first cup game against Barnsley," SI.com quoted the German.

Kepa, true to the stats, saved two penalties: One from Aissa Mandi and the final shootout kick from Villareal's 35-year-old captain Raul Albiol.

The extra time had ended 1-all at the Windsor Park Stadium.

         Goalkeepers ego and wisdom

Goalkeepers usually do not like to be replaced.

Kepa had stubbornly declined getting replaced during a League Cup final defeat to Manchester City in 2019.

Italian Maurizio Sarri, helming Chelsea as manager then stormed off the Wembley Stadium over Kepa's antic.

7News says back-up keeper Argentine Willy Caballero was all set to step in as replacement.

On Wednesday, Tuchel ensured such an incident did not repeat. 

"We spoke to the players and Edou was fantastic. We do what we need to do for the team.  I am happy for Kepa and for Edou to have a goalkeeper like this that does not show the pride to not step off the field. He is happy to do this for the team and take this for the team," SI.com quoted the Chelsea head coach saying.

                   Other highlights

  • After this Super Cup triumph Chelsea are looking forward to their opening Premier League match on Saturday, at home to Crystal Palace.

They are likely to start with Belgian Romelu Lukaku, moving from Inter Milan. 

And unlikely to play Kepa upfront instead of Senegalese Mendy.

Villarreal go into their opening La Liga match  against Granada on Monday.

  • Gerard Moreno's 73rd minute equaliser for Villareal was his 83rd for his club, breaking US-born former Italy striker Giuseppe Rossi's record.

Moroccan Hakim Ziyech, who had put Chelsea ahead in the 27th minute was replaced by Christian Pulisic after injuring his right arm.

He returned to watch the match with his arm in a sling.

  • The Super Cup acts as a pre-season match between the winner of last season's Champions League and Europa League.

  • Chelsea reportedly had the backing of about 13,000 supporters, mostly from Northern Ireland while Villareal had about 1,000 in the crowd in yellow.

  • Sierra Leone-born Trevoh Chalobah, 22, played his   first competitive game for Chelsea.

He has had loan spells from Ipswich to FC Lorient.