Chelsea claim Super Cup but shoot-out success shows why Lukaku is needed

By Sports Desk August 11, 2021

Romelu Lukaku's final kick of his first spell at Chelsea came in a Super Cup.

On August 30, 2013, the Belgian – then 20, still young, albeit one with the physical stature of a player much further on in his career – missed the decisive penalty as Chelsea became the first team to lose successive Super Cup fixtures, going down in a shoot-out to Bayern Munich.

Not long after that game, Lukaku headed to Everton, initially on a loan deal before he made a permanent move to Goodison Park a year later. A return to Chelsea, however, has always seemed a possibility for the striker who stormed onto the scene with Anderlecht in his teens.

Whereas a Super Cup marked the end of his first spell in London, Wednesday's meeting with Villarreal showed just why the Blues are set to break their transfer record to sign the 28-year-old, who arrives back at the club a Serie A winner and one of Europe's leading forwards.

This time, Lukaku watched on from afar as Chelsea, defeated on penalties by Liverpool in the 2019 edition, clinched victory in the shoot-out after a 1-1 draw in Belfast – Kepa Arrizabalaga coming on to be the hero.

 

ROM THE REMEDY

It seems wrong to be too critical of Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea, given their remarkable success in his short time at the club. They went unbeaten in their first 14 games under the German, secured a top-four finish, reached the FA Cup final and, of course, won the Champions League.

Yet from Tuchel's appointment until the end of last season, Chelsea scored only 38 goals in all competitions.

The chances were being created - it would be difficult for players such as Mason Mount, who crafted the second-most opportunities in the Premier League last season, Hakim Ziyech, who opened the scoring in Belfast before going off injured, Christian Pulisic and Champions League final goalscorer Kai Havertz not to fashion their fair share.

Much was made of Timo Werner's first season at the club too, as the former RB Leipzig forward fluffed his lines time after time. He finished with six league goals but from 79 attempts, registering a shot conversion rate of just 7.59 per cent, while he only netted five of the 23 'big' chances, as defined by Opta, that came his way.

Up until the 27th minute at Windsor Park, when Ziyech tucked in from Havertz's centre, it was all Chelsea, but the same issues which had plagued their frontline last season were present once more.

In the sixth minute, Marcos Alonso's brilliant cross caught Werner on his heels. It would have been a gift for Lukaku. Werner forced a great save from the resulting corner, though that was the only shot he managed in his 65 minutes on the field.

More issues came after Ziyech's opener, as Chelsea (who had 67.9 per cent possession before the break) failed to add to their lead and let Villarreal – who levelled through Gerard Moreno – claim control.

Lukaku's imminent arrival, however, should ensure this profligacy, demonstrated again by Pulisic's 100th-minute miss from close range, is not repeated throughout the coming campaign.

Chelsea ended the game against Villarreal with 20 attempts, of which seven were on target. Had Lukaku's signing come in time, it is hard to imagine penalties would have been required at all to decide the outcome.

KEPA THE HERO

While Chelsea's forwards toiled, it was forgotten man Kepa who came on to be the difference.

In the 119th minute, Edouard Mendy made way for the former Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper – just over 17 minutes after that change, Kepa dived low to his right to keep out Raul Albiol's weak effort and ensure the Champions League holders have now lifted the Super Cup in eight of the past nine seasons.

It was a brave call by Tuchel, who follows in the footsteps of compatriots Jurgen Klopp and Hansi Flick in winning the Super Cup – German coaches having triumphed in the last three editions.

With Lukaku soon to be back on board, it could – and perhaps should – be the first trophy of many for the Blues this term.

For now, though, this was just a nice story for Kepa, the keeper who once refused to be taken off in a cup final had come on late to help decide the outcome in his team's favour.

Related items

  • Madrid not LaLiga champions yet as Ancelotti warns there's a long way to go ahead of derby Madrid not LaLiga champions yet as Ancelotti warns there's a long way to go ahead of derby

    Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti insisted there is still a long way to go in the LaLiga title race after Los Blancos moved eight points clear ahead of next week's derby.

    Vinicius Junior and Luka Jovic scored in the second half as leaders Madrid defeated Real Sociedad 2-0 away from home on Saturday.

    After defending champions Atletico Madrid were stunned 2-1 by Real Mallorca earlier on Saturday, Ancelotti's men are now 10 points above their city rivals heading into the December 12 derby.

    However, Ancelotti knows there is still plenty to play for after 16 rounds, with Atletico boasting a game in hand, while Sevilla – who have also played a match less – sit second in the standings.

    "I think it was just a good day for us," Ancelotti told reporters. "The league continues and results have shown that we still know there are a lot of teams that are competing at a high level in this league, but they are very even matches, we're competing at a good level as well.

    "Hopefully we can continue. And as for Karim [Benzema], he had a bit of pain early on in the game and he didn't want to aggravate any possible injury, so we opted to replace him. We'll see how he feels in the next few days, but I don't think he'll be able to play on Tuesday, but he could be fit for Sunday."

    Pressed on people labelling Madrid champions already and whether it is exaggerated, Ancelotti replied: "Yes, because we are a team that's fighting for the league title and we are first.

    "We're playing well, but it's far from over, and I do think we're playing well and we have another big exam in three days time. 

    "So today's game is a good performance, but we have to work well in our next fixture. I'm thinking about our next game against Inter [in the Champions League]."

    Madrid will welcome city rivals Atletico to the Santiago Bernabeu in their next league fixture and Ancelotti added: "We are confident because it's a special game as well, because a derby is always a special game, and in these kind of games there are no favourites.

    "So we're going to show our quality against their quality. I think it's going to be a great game, a complicated game as well. And we'll see what happens."

    Madrid are the first team from Europe's top five leagues to have two different players with 10 or more league goals this season – Karim Benzema 12 and Vinicius 10.

    Vinicius scored the earliest second-half LaLiga goal (46:47) for Madrid away from home since December 2010, when Angel Di Maria netted at Real Zaragoza (46:36) thanks to an assist from Xabi Alonso, the current Real Sociedad B manager.

    Meanwhile, Jovic – who replaced the injured Benzema – was also impressive after teeing up Vinicius' opener before scoring a goal of his own.

    The last time Jovic had a goal and an assist in the same league game was for Eintracht Frankfurt against Hannover in the Bundesliga in February 2019.

    It also meant the Serbia international forward scored and assisted in the same game for the first time in all competitions (41 appearances) and was involved in the same number of goals than in his previous 22 games (one goal and one assist in 462 minutes).

    Madrid midfielder Luka Modric praised Jovic, saying: "He put in a very good performance. He provided an assist and scored after having gone a long time without playing. He showed that we can count on him. We're very pleased with his performance and his goal."

  • Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo misses second consecutive game Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo misses second consecutive game

    Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA clash with the Miami Heat due to right calf soreness on Saturday.

    Antetokounmpo was absent for the second consecutive game after missing Thursday's loss to the Toronto Raptors because of the same problem.

    The Finals MVP was a late withdrawal for the defending champions' 97-83 defeat against the Raptors, with Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer initially hopeful it was only a "short-term" issue.

    On Saturday, Budenholzer said: "We'll just take it day by day. See how it goes."

    Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.6 points – only behind Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant entering Saturday's play, 11.8 rebounds and a career-high 6.0 assists per game this season.

    Before facing Eastern Conference rivals the Heat, the Bucks boasted a 14-9 record to be fifth – three and a half games behind the Nets.

  • MLS Cup play-offs: Timbers will host first final after beating RSL MLS Cup play-offs: Timbers will host first final after beating RSL

    Portland Timbers will host the MLS Cup final for the first time in their history after conquering Real Salt Lake 2-0 on Saturday.

    Felipe Mora and Santiago Moreno were both on target as 2015 MLS champions the Timbers advanced to the showpiece for the third time.

    The Timbers will face either New York City or Philadelphia Union in the December 11 final.

    Portland made the perfect start to the Western Conference decider when Mora was on hand to fire his deflected shot past David Ochoa after five minutes.

    RSL – who were looking to become the first team in MLS history to reach the final without playing a home play-off fixture – had a golden chance to equalise just past the half-hour mark but Damir Kreilach's header was somehow saved by Steve Clark.

    The Timbers sealed the victory in the 61st minute – Moreno's long-range effort ricocheting off the post and back off Ochoa at Providence Park – as Portland extended their winning streak to six matches, just their second such run after 2018.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.