Kepa Arrizabalaga was the unlikely hero as Chelsea started the new season as they ended the last with a European trophy by beating Villarreal 6-5 on penalties after a 1-1 draw to win the UEFA Super Cup in Belfast.
The Spaniard, who has lost his place as number one since joining the club for a world record fee for a goalkeeper in 2018, was introduced late in extra-time as a substitute for the shootout by Thomas Tuchel.
Kepa famously refused to be replaced by former Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri in a League Cup final defeat to Manchester City two years ago.
But this time he rewarded his manager’s faith with saves from Aissa Mandi and Raul Albiol.
“It was not spontaneous,” said Tuchel who explained the plan had been hatched in the FA Cup last season.
“We talked about it with the goalkeepers after the first cup game against Barnsley.
“Kepa has the best percentage at saving penalties, the analysing guys and goalkeeping coaches showed me the data. We spoke to the players that this could happen when we play in knockout games. It’s fantastic how Edouard (Mendy) accepted it.
“There is proof that Kepa is better in this discipline. They’re team players. Edouard does not show the pride to not step off the field. He was happy to do it for the team and take this for the team.”
Chelsea’s win over Manchester City in Porto to lift the Champions League for a second time in May was the culmination of a meteoric rise in Tuchel’s first five months in charge.
The German has bemoaned having to manage a 42-man squad during pre-season and could soon have even more firepower to call on with Romelu Lukaku expected to complete a return to Stamford Bridge later this week for a club record £97 million ($135 million).
But the depth of resources available to Tuchel was on show early on.
Euro 2020 finalists Mason Mount, Ben Chilwell, Reece James and Jorginho all had to settle for a place on the bench after their late return to pre-season training, but Chelsea still had far too much for the Europa League winners in the opening half hour.
Nigeria qualify for 2023 Africa U20 Cup of Nations
Nigeria’s U20 boys, Flying Eagles, on Tuesday night overpowered fit-fighting Cote d’Ivoire in an explosive semi final match to reach the final of the ongoing WAFU B U20 Championship in Niamey.
The ticket to Saturday’s final also came with a ticket to next year’s Africa U20 Cup of Nations taking place in Egypt.
Midfielder Daniel Daga put Nigeria in front after only five minutes when he cleverly escaped the attention of the Ivorian defenders to nod in from a well-weighted pull out.
The seven-time African champions then launched onslaught after onslaught on the Ivorian goal but failed to add to the tally, before the Ivorians equalized just before half time from an intelligently-taken free kick at the edge of Nigeria’s eighteen-yard box.
Neither team could find another goal to gain upper hand before the end of regulation time inside the Stade General Seyni Kountché, and the game went into extra time.
Forward Ibrahim Yahaya got the winner for Nigeria in the 111th minute of play when he tucked in from the penalty spot to make it 2-1.
Nigeria will square up against neighbours Benin Republic in Saturday’s final.
Arsenal squandered Champions League spot after loss to Newcastle United
Arsenal’s Champions League hopes suffered a major blow as Newcastle powered their way to a deserved win at a raucous St James’ Park.
Newcastle’s Bruno Guimaraes condemned the Gunners to a costly 2-0 defeat with an 85th-minute strike after Ben White’s own goal had put the Magpies ahead in front of a crowd of 52,274.
As a result, Arsenal will go into Sunday’s final round of fixtures two points behind their North London rival Tottenham, who are fourth on the table and with their fate out of their own hands.
Victory was no more than Eddie Howe’s side deserved as they bounced back from successive defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City to take their tally to 46 points, the most they have collected since returning to the Premier League in 2017.
Arsenal, were first to threaten when Granit Xhaka fed Eddie Nketiah, who cut inside from the left, but saw his right-foot shot blocked.
Callum Wilson’s pace made life difficult for Arsenal and White had to block a Sean Longstaff cross and a Joelinton shot within seconds as the home side pushed for the opener.
Bukayo Saka threatened on 21 minutes and the England international’s second strike forced keeper Martin Dubravka into another save before Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsdale produced a solid 37th-minute stop from Allan Saint-Maximin.
Martin Odegaard then flashed the ball across the Magpies’ penalty area, but the Gunners fell behind on 55 minutes.
Saint-Maximin played Joelinton into space down the left and he crossed to the near post, where White could only guide the ball into his own net.
As the visitors chased an equaliser, Wilson sent a 63rd-minute snapshot just over, Ramsdale palmed away Jacob Murphy’s shot and was relieved to see Wilson’s late lob from 40 yards drop just wide.
The keeper dived bravely at Wilson’s feet with five minutes remaining, but the rebound fell perfectly for Guimaraes, who wasted no time to seal the points.
Mikel Arteta was fumed after witnessing his team throwing away a whole season’s hard work in a woeful 2-0 defeat at St. James’ Park.
With his team’s Champions League dram almost over, Arteta could not hide his exasperation anymore.
“Normally, I will always defend my players. Not tonight, it is too difficult. We didn’t compete. We never got into the game. We lost every duel. They were comfortably better than us.
“I am incredibly disappointed. It’s a very painful one. It was in our hands, it’s not in our hands now. We have to put our head down and swallow all the poison that we feel,” He told a press conference
Arteta’s anger was echoed by Granit Xhaka, who pulled no punches during an explosive post-game interview. The Arsenal midfielder declared the Gunners didn’t deserve a spot in Europe’s showpiece event next season.
“From the first minute to the 90th we didn’t deserve to be on the pitch today,” he told Sky Sports. “What happened was a disaster performance and like this you don’t deserve to play Champions League, you don’t even deserve to play Europa League. It’s very hard to take at the moment. I don’t know why we’re not doing what the coaches ask for.”
“If someone isn’t ready for this game, stay at home. It doesn’t matter the age. If you’re not ready or you’re nervous, stay on the bench, stay at home, don’t come here. We knew this game was maybe the most important for us but, with a performance like this, it’s not acceptable.”
Official: José Peseiro now Super Eagles Head Coach
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has appoint Joeé Santos Peseiro as the new Head Coach of the national team after weeks of endless reports of the Portuguese being the frontrunner for the Super Eagles Head coach job.
The NFF announced the appointment on Sunday, saying appointment is with immediate effect but subject to the signing of agreed terms between the NFF and Peseiro.
Peseiro, 62, will take charge of the Super Eagles starting with friendlies with Mexico and Ecuador later in May.
Mr Peseiro has coached clubs and national teams in four continents— Europe, Asia, Africa and South America.
He has coached at Sporting Lisbon, FC Porto, Panathinaikos, Rapid Bucharest, Sporting Braga, Victoria Gumaraes, Al-Hilal, Al-Wahda, Al-Ahly Cairo, Sharjah FC and Real Madrid (assistant coach during the Galacticos era), and worked as Head Coach of the Saudi Arabian and Venezuelan national teams.
A statement from the NFF said Peseiro is expected to lead out the Super Eagles for the first time against Mexico at the AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas on May 28, before flying to New Jersey to face Ecuador at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison on Thursday, June 2.
NFF in the statement also announced that former Nigerian international forward, Finidi George will now be the First Assistant to Peseiro, with Salisu Yusuf to be the Second Assistant as well as Head Coach of the CHAN and U23 National Teams.
Usman Abdallah is the Third Assistant while Eboboritse Uwejamomere will be the Match Analyst and another former Nigeria international, Ike Shorounmu will be the Goalkeepers’ Trainer.
Peseiro succeeds Augustine Eguavoen who failed to qualify the Super Eagles for the 2022 World Cup holding in Qatar.
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