Kepa Arrizabalaga was the hero as Chelsea secured their first Super Cup triumph since 1998, running out 6-5 winners in a penalty shootout against Villarreal following a 1-1 draw in Belfast.
Hakim Ziyech opened the scoring after good work down the left flank from Kai Havertz before the former Ajax man’s shoulder injury marred an entertaining first half.
Alberto Moreno and Gerard Moreno both hit the woodwork either side of half-time, though the latter restored parity with a fine finish to send the final to extra time.
Kepa, who was brought on in the closing minutes solely for penalties, denied both Aissa Mandi and Raul Albiol to make sure Chelsea came out on top.
The Champions League holders had started proceedings impressively too, Timo Werner forcing the first save as Sergio Asenjo had to react quickly to parry away a close-range effort from Havertz’s inswinging corner.
Asenjo, though, was no match for Ziyech’s sweeping finish after Havertz found space on the left and drilled towards his team-mate near the penalty spot.
Ziyech’s injury, suffered while defending a set-piece situation, offered Thomas Tuchel a reason to be concerned, with Alberto Moreno then smashing an effort onto the crossbar.
Gerard Moreno was also denied in similar circumstances after the break, capitalising on Edouard Mendy’s wayward clearance before seeing his low strike smack the post.
However, the Villarreal forward quickly made amends, exchanging a one-two with Boulaye Dia before lifting over Mendy for his 23rd goal of 2021, ranking him fifth across Europe’s top-five leagues.
Both Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount could not find extra-time winners and, with a shoot-out in sight, Tuchel sent on Kepa.
Opposite number Asenjo drew first blood with a stop against Havertz, but that advantage faded away when Kepa saved for the first time.
With no further misses between the other eight takers, sudden death kicks were necessary. After Antonio Rudiger rolled in his attempt, Kepa guessed the right way to deny Villarreal captain Albiol.
What does it mean? Blues banish Super Cup demons
Chelsea reigned victorious in the Super Cup for the second time in five attempts, having previously lost to Atletico Madrid in 2012, Bayern Munich the following year on penalties and then Liverpool two years ago, also following a shoot-out.
Wednesday’s game at Windsor Park was the first competitive meeting between the two teams, but Tuchel’s side extended their unbeaten streak to seven against Spanish opponents following their run to Champions League glory last term.
Marcos Alonso may not steal the headlines, but he was a constant nuisance for Juan Foyth down Chelsea’s left flank, providing four key passes to rank joint-first in the game with the injured Ziyech.
The left wing-back also won 80 per cent of his aerial duels and converted his penalty, proving he can be a capable deputy for England left-back Ben Chilwell.
More wanted from Moreno
While Gerard Moreno did add to his tally this year with a second-half equaliser, as well as tucking away a penalty, he was largely contained by Chelsea’s three-man defence.
The Villarreal forward missed a glorious chance to level things up before his goal and lost possession a game-high 27 times. Factor in the 29-year-old winning just 18.8 per cent of his 16 duels and Unai Emery may be asking for more from his front man in terms of what he can provide when leading the line.
Key Opta facts
– The Champions League winners have now won the Super Cup in eight of the past nine seasons, while they had won just four of the previous nine before this run.
– For the third year in a row, the Super Cup has been won by a German manager (Jurgen Klopp in 2019, Hansi Flick in 2020 and now Tuchel in 2021).
– Chelsea became the first English team to triumph in the fixture when playing a non-English side since Liverpool in 2005.
– Villarreal were the seventh different Spanish team to feature in the Super Cup, and the first to lose on their maiden appearance since Real Madrid in 1998 – also against Chelsea.
– Gerard Moreno has scored eight goals in his last nine appearances in European competition for Villarreal.
Chelsea start their Premier League campaign by hosting Crystal Palace on Saturday, while Villarreal welcome Granada on Monday in the opening round of LaLiga fixtures.
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