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Chelsea outlast Villarreal in penalties to win UEFA Super Cup

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Chelsea narrowly outlasted Villarreal after seven rounds of penalty kicks to win the UEFA Super Cup at Windsor Park in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Wednesday.

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Hakim Ziyech gave Chelsea a lead in the first half, but Gerard Moreno struck back not long from full-time to send the game into extra-time and eventually the shootout.

Ziyech opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark, and it was first-season struggler Kai Havertz who made it happen for the Moroccan international. Havertz surged down the left flank and cut the ball back toward the top of the box, rather than straight across to the center, where he found Ziyech arriving to redirect it back across goal to beat Sergio Asenjo.

Ziyech suffered a right shoulder injury just a few minutes later and left the field in considerable pain as he used his rolled-up shirt as a temporary sling. The play on which the injury occurred was rather innocuous, but Ziyech landed just wrong on the unforgiven ground.

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Villarreal went oh so close to equalizing Chelsea in first-half stoppage time, only to be denied by a few millimeters too much of the crossbar. Gerard floated a cross from the right wing to the far post, and Alberto Moreno put into it every bit of power he could muster with his left foot. When the ball comes off the crossbar and lands that close to the goal line, there’s such a thin line between goal and no goal.

Seven minutes into the second half, Villarreal were again denied by the woodwork. This time, Edouard Mendy slipped and gave the ball away from his goal kick which resulted in a quick counter-attacking chance. Boulaye Dia played Gerard in behind the Chelsea defense, but he put his calmly placed finish off the front of the far post.

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The equalizer was long-awaited, but well worth it in the end. Gerard played Dia into the penalty area and Dia deftly touched his backheel assist into Gerard’s path. The finish was as good as the assist, too, as Gerard expertly lobbed the ball inside the far post to make it 1-1.

Havertz was comfortably denied on the first of the penalty shootout, putting Villarreal out in front after Gerard bounces his off the inside of the post. Aissa Mandi was denied by Kepa Arrizabalaga in the second round, though, after Cesar Azpilicueta pulled Chelsea back to 1-1. Arrizabalaga came on in the final moments of extra-time, as Thomas Tuchel elected to have him face the penalties over Mendy, the clear-cut no. 1.

Marcos Alonso, Mason Mount and Jorginho converted in rounds 3, 4 and 5, but Arrizabalaga couldn’t create an advantage for the Blues. Christian Pulisic, who replaced the injured Ziyech, put his away in the sixth round, as did former Tottenham defender Juan Foyth for Villarreal. Antonio Rudiger converted in the seventh, and then it was Arrizabalaga’s time to shine.

Raul Albiol went low and to Arrizabalaga’s right, and the Spanish international was all over it, making the save within the frame of his body.

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