KEPA ARRIZABALAGA was Chelsea’s penalty shootout hero after coming off the bench to help win the Super Cup against Villarreal.
It comes just over two years after Kepa’s debacle with former manager Maurizio Sarri – where the Spanish keeper REFUSED to be replaced by Willy Caballero during a similar situation.
Fortunately for the Spaniard, current team-mate and Blues No1 Edouard Mendy had no such problems being replaced just before the end of extra-time.
Kepa did not even touch the ball before the Super Cup final against Villarreal went to penalties.
But stats showed Kepa had saved five out of 22 penalties he had faced in his career up until that point – with Mendy stopping only two out of 26.
And it proved a moment of genius for Blues boss Thomas Tuchel, with the sub keeper saving two spot kicks during the shootout.
Tuchel told BT Sport: It was not spontaneous. We talked about it with the goalkeepers when we came and had our first cup game against Barnsley.
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“We had some statistics that Kepa has the best percentage when it comes to saving penalties.
“The analysing guys and goalkeeper coaches introduced me to the data, and then we spoke to the players and told them that this could happen when we play in knockout games.
“It’s fantastic how Edou[ard Mendy] accepts it. We needed to do what was good for the team.
“There is proof that Kepa is better at this discipline.
“These guys are true team players. I am happy for Kepa and happy for Edou.”
All eyes were on the world’s most expensive stopper heading into penalties, as Gerard Moreno slotted past him.
But Kepa got off the mark as he stopped Villarreal’s second kick, denying Aissa Mandi.
Pervis Estupinan, Moi Gomez, Dani Raba, and Juan Foyth then all scored against Chelsea’s No2.
But as it went to sudden death, Kepa got his moment of glory after saving from Villarreal’s skipper Raul Albiol.
He was then mobbed by his ecstatic Chelsea team-mates, with Mendy among those leading the celebrations.
It may help Kepa put to bed the infamous incident during the 2019 League Cup final against Manchester City.
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Then-manager Sarri wanted to bring on penalty specialist Caballero – but Kepa angrily waved it off much to the fury of the Italian boss.
After initial reports claimed that the Chelsea bench thought Kepa was injured, it later became clear that the world record Spaniard had plainly refused.
Kepa, signed for a world record £71.6million, was later fined a week’s wages – around £190,000 – for his petulance.
He has since publicly apologised to Sarri and his Chelsea team-mates, and put the ordeal down to a miscommunication.
And last month he addressed the incident again when writing in the Player’s Tribune.
It was all a big misunderstanding. After making a save, I felt something in my leg and I called for the physio to make sure it was nothing.
Kepa on infamously refusing to come off for penalties
He said: “Let’s just deal with that here once and for all.
“It was all a big misunderstanding. After making a save, I felt something in my leg and I called for the physio to make sure it was nothing.
“Above all, though, I wanted to make sure that we as a team could catch our breath.
“Suddenly, I saw that the coach, Maurizio Sarri, had sent Willy Caballero to warm up.
“He thought I couldn’t go on. My intention, right or wrong, had only been to waste time to help the team.
“I didn’t have any serious problem that was going to keep me from continuing to play.
“I tried to signal that I was okay, that I wasn’t injured. But we were at Wembley in front of more than 80,000 people, so of course Sarri didn’t understand me.
“When the fourth official raised the board, clearly I should have come off, and I’m sorry I didn’t.
“I was wrong, and I am sorry for everyone who was involved: for Maurizio Sarri, who it seemed like I had undermined in public.
“For Willy, a team-mate and a great professional, and for all my team-mates and Chelsea fans who had to put up with everything – all the noise that was generated during the game and then in the days after.”
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