Chelsea hero Kepa Arrizabalaga has claimed that he was mentally prepared for the penalty shootouts after helping his team to the UEFA Super Cup triumph.
Kepa Arrizabalaga hasn’t always had it easy at Chelsea. Since arriving at the club three years ago in a world-record deal for a goalkeeper, the Spaniard has been in the line of fire for one reason or the other.
From his infamous kerfuffle with former manager Maurizio Sarri in his debut season to the axing under Frank Lampard, the former Athletic Bilbao man has not always been favoured at Stamford Bridge. That had become evident again last summer, when Chelsea invested in a new goalkeeper, Edouard Mendy, who replaced Kepa as the first-choice immediately after his arrival.
Having had to wait for his opportunity while watching the Senegalese from the bench, Kepa made the most of it when his moment came. Thrust in by manager Thomas Tuchel for the penalty shootout against Villarreal in the UEFA Super Cup at Windsor Park on Wednesday, the Spanish international rose to the occasion and was Chelsea’s hero as they lifted the trophy.
Kepa was under intense pressure after Kai Havertz had Chelsea’s first spot-kick saved. But the Spaniard did brilliantly to deny Aissa Mandi that allowed Chelsea to get back on level terms.
This is how it felt for Chelsea fans inside the Windsor Stadium!!
— George Addo Jnr (@addojunr) August 11, 2021
And once in sudden death, he was at hand to stop Raul Albiol’s strike to send the fans into a frenzy as the Blues lifted their second trophy under Tuchel. Speaking to BT Sport after the game, as relayed by Transfer Market Web, Kepa said: “This is not a usual situation. Edouard and the rest of the team did a fantastic job. It was a tough game, against a very tough team.
“But we eventually made it, and now we have got the medal. Penalty kicks? I’m not used to such a situation, but I was ready, because I knew it could happen. I tried to be ready both physically and mentally.”
It was a moment of redemption for Kepa, who has had to face plenty of criticism throughout his stint at Stamford Bridge. As to whether his exploits are enough for Tuchel to reinstate the Spaniard as Chelsea’s first-choice goalkeeper ahead of Mendy, only time will tell.