Kepa Arrizabalaga was the hero for Chelsea in the Super Cup, saving two penalties in the successful shoot-out having come on right at the end of extra-time, and Thomas Tuchel explained why he was introduced in place of Edouard Mendy.
Kepa kept out Aissa Mandi and Raul Albiol as the Blues emerged victorious by six penalties to five after each team scored once in 120 minutes. Edouard Mendy made a couple of superb saves in normal time, but stepped aside for his fellow keeper as the shoot-out loomed.
‘When we came to Chelsea and we had the first cup game against Barnsley, we got the statistics and we were prepared,’ Tuchel started.
‘Kepa had the best percentage at saving penalties. The analysis guys and the goalkeeper coaches showed me the data, then we spoke with the players that this [substitution] could happen when we play knockout games.
‘Since then they have known. It’s fantastic how Edou accepts it, and it’s fantastic how the talk went on the morning before the cup game in Barnsley. These guys are true team players. I’m happy for Kepa and I’m happy for Edou.’
On the initial two hours of action at Windsor Park in Belfast, Tuchel acknowledged the momentum of the contest changed throughout, with Villarreal stubborn opposition, but ultimately the right team won.
‘It was tough, 120 minutes after more or less nothing. We were very strong in the first 30, 35 minutes, but then we lost some easy balls after our goal. Second half we were too passive, too many ball losses, and they deservedly equalised.
‘From then until the end we were very strong again. We invested more until the 120th minute and we deserved to win.’
Tuchel also provided a brief update on our goalscorer Hakim Ziyech, who went off injured holding his arm.
‘If you take a player out during the first half, it is serious. It was unfortunate because he has been a very decisive player in the last games.'