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

  • French Open: 'He made his mark on the sport' – Federer, Djokovic and Nadal pay tribute to 'charismatic' Tsonga French Open: 'He made his mark on the sport' – Federer, Djokovic and Nadal pay tribute to 'charismatic' Tsonga

    Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have paid tribute to the "charismatic" Jo-Wilfried Tsonga after the 37-year-old brought his 18-year professional career to a close.

    Tsonga, who reached a career-high ranking of world number five in 2012, confirmed in April that he would retire at the culmination of his French Open campaign.

    That duly came in the first round on Tuesday as he bowed out to world number eight Casper Ruud 6-7 (6-8) 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 7-6 (7-0).

    He retires having won, according to Opta, 464 Tour-level matches since September 2004.

    Tsonga is one of just three players, along with Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro, to have beaten Nadal, Federer and Djokovic while they were ranked world number one.

    He is also one of three players, alongside Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych, who have defeated Nadal, Federer and Djokovic at grand slams.

    A video tribute was played on court after his defeat to Ruud, which featured messages from the sport's most iconic players.

    Federer said: "I wanted to congratulate you on an amazing career and it was a pleasure to share the court with and play against you, even to lose against you!

    "We had some great battles. Enjoy the moment in Paris with all your friends and family, in front of all your adoring spectators."

    Djokovic added: "Jo is one of the most charismatic tennis players ever to play the game. I was very happy to share the court with him many times.

    "We get along well and he's a really nice guy. He brought a lot of positive attention and popularity to our sport not just because of his dynamic game style, but also his charisma and his personality, so it's a big loss for professional men's tennis to have him retire.

    "I wish him all the best, and he definitely should be happy about his career and his achievements. He's made his mark and his legacy in our sport."

    Nadal said: "He is very charismatic. I've known him since we were kids; he is a good guy and I think he brings a lot of positive things to our sport so I'm sad to see him going but we are getting old so it's going to happen for everyone."

    Speaking at a media conference after his defeat, Tsonga said he would now spend some time relaxing before focusing on the development of his tennis academy.

    He said he will miss the adrenaline of playing on court, as well as how he was able to express himself completely when competing.

    "It's adrenaline, to step onto a big court like this one," he said. "It's adrenaline you can feel when you have 15,000 people shouting out your name, supporting you on the court.

    "This is what I'm going to miss – the contact with the crowd. And with those who have been supporting me for all these years.

    "You know, in real life, it's sometimes difficult to be intense. You don't want to shock, you don't want to be too rude, you don't want to hurt somebody.

    "You always try to act to be nice, to be sociable. But, you know, on the court, you can express your fever. You can express everything about you, and it's sometimes freeing."

  • Jamaica Reggae Boy Hector again on the hunt for new club with Fulham stint ending in June Jamaica Reggae Boy Hector again on the hunt for new club with Fulham stint ending in June

    Jamaica international Michael Hector will once again be on the hunt for a new club come the end of the next month when he is expected to leave recently promoted Fulham.

    The 29-year-old defender has been with the club since 2019 and was a part of the successful promotion-chasing team in the 2020 season.   The Cottagers will once again be heading back to the topflight after winning the league championship a few weeks ago.

    This time around, however, the player found playing time hard to come by and accumulated just seven starts in all competitions for the Cottagers last season.  In preparing for life in the top flight again the club recently announced that it would part ways with as many as 14 players with the Jamaican international among them.

    Hector has enjoyed a nomadic experience in the English Leagues to date having played for some 18 clubs, including Reading (twice) and Hull City.  For Jamaica, he has made 35 appearances, last representing the team in July of last year.

     

     

     

     

  • 'A footballer forced to stay can be frustrated and angry' – Ribery issues warning to Bayern over Lewandowski stance 'A footballer forced to stay can be frustrated and angry' – Ribery issues warning to Bayern over Lewandowski stance

    Former Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery has warned the Bundesliga champions not to keep striker Robert Lewandowski at the club against his will.

    Questions remain over Lewandowski's future after he confirmed last week that he wants to leave Bayern.

    Lewandowski suggested no new terms had been proposed on his contract, which is due to expire at the end of the season.

    However, Bayern chief executive Oliver Kahn insisted on Saturday that a "concrete offer" was on the table, while sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic accused the player's agent, Pini Zahavi, of attempting to turn his client's head.

    Zahavi hit back at Salihamidzic as he warned Bayern it would not be sensible to risk losing Lewandowski on a free transfer, nor to deny him the opportunity to join Barcelona.

    Ribery, who played alongside Lewandowski at Bayern between 2014 and 2019, agrees with that sentiment, but remains hopeful the 33-year-old can leave the club on good terms.

    "There is such a risk [for Bayern]," he told Wirtualna Polska. "A footballer forced to stay can be frustrated and angry.

    "However, I would love to find a solution that will make everyone happy. I understand the club because it will be very difficult to find a new Lewandowski.

    "We are talking about the best striker in the world in recent years. Nobody sells such a player willingly.

    "But Lewandowski wants this change; he is looking for a new spark, he needs a new challenge. This situation is not easy. May there be a good solution for everyone.

    "If Robert leaves, nobody and nothing will erase what he has done for Bayern. But I would also like him to leave in style."

     

    Lewandowski scored 50 goals in 46 matches for Bayern this season in all competitions, making him the top scorer across Europe's top five leagues.

    And Ribery, who now plays in Serie A for Salernitana, believes the Poland international and LaLiga giants Barca would be a perfect fit.

    "Barca is Barca," he added. "Sure, they have their problems, but even if they are not as strong as five or six years ago, they are still big.

    "It is known that then they had an amazing team, players who played together for many years. [Lionel] Messi, Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta, [Gerard] Pique, [Dani] Alves, [Jordi] Alba.

    "It's different now, but there is no shortage of talent there. Yes, if Lewy were to leave Bayern, Barcelona would be a good choice."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.