This was a clash between two teams who had silenced the critics and done the unthinkable just over two months ago. Villarreal produced a tireless performance to beat Manchester United on penalties in the Europa League final in late May. Just a few days later, Thomas Tuchel’s men defied the odds to beat Manchester City and lift the Champions League trophy for the second time in ten years. It was high time Emery and Tuchel battled it out for another European title in 2021.
Chelsea dominated the first few exchanges of the game as they took the game to Villarreal in Belfast. They opened the scoring through Moroccan winger Hakim Ziyech after German international Kai Havertz sent in an inviting cross into the box. Villarreal’s Gerard Moreno did hit the crossbar just before half-time, but the Yellow Submarines never grew into the game in the first 45 minutes.
The second half saw the two European champions switch roles tactically. As Villarreal dominated possession and pressed higher up the pitch, Chelsea were restricted to their defensive third. The pressing paved the way for the Spanish side’s equalizer in the 73rd minute. Gerard Moreno combined excellently with Boulaye Dia to smash the ball past Edouard Mendy.
The game went into extra time after both sides failed to create quality chances, let alone scoring the deciding goal in this Super Cup final. Unlike in the second half, Chelsea approached both halves of extra time with a new-born vigor. An attack spearheaded by Christian Pulisic and kept alive by Mason Mount, the Blues squandered a couple of chances. Eventually, the game went to penalties.
After both sides missed a penalty early on in the shootout, it was Kepa Arrizabalaga who had the last laugh. Raul Albiol’s sudden-death spot-kick was saved by the Chelsea stopper to settle the deadlock. Arrizabalaga was specifically brought on by Thomas Tuchel for the penalties, having replaced Edouard Mendy in extra time.
On that note, let’s take a look at the top five talking points from this Super Cup encounter in Windsor.
#1 Emery and Tuchel switch seats for the first half
The first half of this Super Cup fixture saw a very unusual showing from both sides. Tuchel’s Chelsea, known for their calm and composed out-of-possession tactics, were allowed the bulk of possession by their Spanish counterparts. Meanwhile, the Yellow Submarine sat back and invited pressure, waiting to hit the Champions League winners on the counter.
This was more of a proactive approach by Emery to unsettle the Chelsea camp, while Tuchel only adapted to the game as it progressed. Luckily for the Blues, Villarreal failed to really make the best out of their designated tactical setup for Wednesday night. Chelsea dominated the first half, both from the possession point of view as well as the creation phase of the game.
It also offered glimpses for both sets of supporters about how the teams could perform against inferior opposition going forward. Chelsea take on Crystal Palace next, a team that always sit back in a low-block and are hard to break.
#2 A bitter-sweet Deja vu for Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech
Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech continued his blazing pre-season form as he opened the scoring for the Blues in the 27th minute. Perfectly positioned to receive Kai Havertz’s cross into the penalty area, he slotted the ball home accurately to beat Sergio Asenjo from close range.
Things seemed to be moving in the right direction for the Moroccan international this pre-season. But his joy was short lived as he suffered another injury on Wednesday night that could rule him out of the first few Premier League fixtures.
The former Ajax stalwart’s Chelsea career has never really taken off as he faces a similar threat to last season. In his premier season with the club last year, Ziyech started the pre-season campaign really well just to get injured in a friendly. The winger was never able to live up to the expectations of the English game and only made cameo appearances for the Blues.
Will it be another similarly disappointing season for Ziyech in London? Has Chelsea got a really injury-prone star on their hands? The next few months should give us the answers to these questions.