Kepa Arrizabalaga was the unlikely hero as Chelsea ended their recent UEFA Super Cup hoodoo to lift the showpiece trophy in Belfast following a nail-biting contest against Villarreal.
The Blues have been burnt on three occasions in this competition, and their fate at Windsor Park was to be decided on the lottery of a penalty shootout, with neither side able to be separated after 120 minutes.
Up stepped Arrizabalaga – a late substitute from Thomas Tuchel for Edouard Mendy on the 119th minute – who saved two spot kicks to send the travelling Chelsea supporters into bedlam as they got their hands on yet another piece of silverware.
Although Tuchel, in an ideal world, would have rather played just the 90 minutes with Saturday’s Premier League opener in mind, there was plenty for fans to pore over ahead of their curtain-raiser this weekend.
Sportsmail takes a look at five things we learned from Chelsea’s showing in Northern Ireland on Wednesday evening.
Chalobah does NOT need to go out on loan
Tuchel was forthcoming in admitting his surprise at the attitude of his returning players in pre-season, with a raft of outsiders coming back to Cobham after spending time out on loan.
Two players that caught the German’s eye included Trevoh Chalobah and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. We are all familiar with the latter’s talent, having seen him operate in top flight football, but Chalobah is something of an unknown, having plied his trade with Lorient last term.
Tuchel handed the youngster his Chelsea debut in Belfast, with the defender slotting into the right of a back three – typically occupied by club captain Cesar Azpilicueta.
And the 22-year-old barely put a foot wrong in an accomplished performance over 120 minutes, displaying superb sprint speed to help protect his side from counter attacks, while showing a confidence on the ball required in defenders in the modern game.
On this showing, any expectations that Chalobah will spend another season out on loan should be muted. He could be a real asset for Tuchel during this slog of a campaign.
Werner misfires with Lukaku looming
In any other window, let alone week, Chelsea’s impending mega-money arrival would dominate headlines. However, a certain Argentine’s move to Paris has seen Romelu Lukaku’s return to West London go under the radar, slightly.
The Belgian marksman, 28, is expected to make his £98million move from Inter to Chelsea in the coming hours, with Tuchel finally set to land his long-desired elite goalscorer to lead the line this season.
Tuchel has dipped in the market as a result of uninspiring performances from Timo Werner. The £53m has, on the whole, failed to deliver since making his £53m move from RB Leipzig last season, with the German looking devoid of confidence throughout a nightmare debut campaign.
And the 25-year-old did little to show that he would be making life difficult for Tuchel in selecting his leading man, putting in another subdued performance in a Chelsea shirt.
Werner made his standard darting runs down the channels, but he saw very little of the ball and did little to help his side when they were put under pressure by Villarreal in the second half. Lukaku would certainly have provided that out ball.
It came as no surprise, then, when Tuchel replaced the striker with Mason Mount. Werner will need to step it up if he is going to want to challenge Lukaku this term.
Ziyech hampered at just the wrong time
Of Tuchel’s plentiful attacking talents, Hakim Ziyech has certainly enjoyed the strongest pre-season for Chelsea.
The Moroccan – hampered by injuries and a lack of minutes in his first season – has been a shining light for the Blues over their pre-season schedule and continued that trend with a strong 40 minutes that included a finely-taken strike to open the scoring.
However, disaster struck for the former Ajax man when he went down with what appeared to be a shoulder injury from an innocuous coming together with Pau Torres, Ziyech clearly in distress as he was taken off the pitch.
He was later seen with his arm in a sling in concerning viewing for Chelsea fans. The likes of Marcus Rashford and Adama Traore have long been blighted by shoulder issues, and the injury can really knock the confidence of a player, particularly attackers.
Ziyech failed to hit the ground running last season with injuries forcing him out of the opening fixtures under Frank Lampard, and he looks to have suffered the same fate once again in an agonising development for the Chelsea star.
Chelsea still off the pace with Palace opener fast approaching
The result is all that matters, of course, but Tuchel will know that a fully fit Chelsea side would have made easier work of their Spanish opponents in Belfast.
In truth, the drop off in intensity from the first to second half was alarming. Villarreal, with the benefit of two additional pre-season fixtures, appeared to have plenty more in the legs than the Blues, with some stars only returning to training just nine days ago.
Misplaced passes, loose first touches and poor reading of play all came to bear in the second half at Windsor Park, with those elements coming together to lead to Gerard Moreno’s deserved equaliser for the Spaniards.
Chelsea still looked more likely to find the winner in extra time, with Mason Mount in particular growing into the game, but varying levels of fitness among Tuchel’s squad will be a concern with only a few days to go before Chelsea host Crystal Palace on the opening day.
Ruthless Tuchel unafraid of bold moves with Kepa gamble
Tuchel’s propensity to make the bold decisions is not something that Chelsea fans will be unfamiliar with. He did, after all, elect to substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi off having initially introduced the youngster during one of his first games in charge of the club.
That episode was viewed as the no-nonsense German laying down the law to his squad, a clear message that the former PSG coach is unafraid of ruffling feathers if it results in improved performances for his side.
But Tuchel’s decision to withdraw Edouard Mendy for Kepa Arrizabalaga lacked the spontaneity of his Hudson-Odoi call last season. No, this was a calculated, considered and ruthless decision that had been in the making long before the 119th minute in Belfast.
‘We talked about it with the goalkeepers when we had the first knockout game against Barnsley,’ Tuchel revealed after his side’s triumph. ‘Kepa has the best save percentage with penalties, the analysts showed me the data and since then I decided.’
And Tuchel’s gamble paid in full, with Kepa the hero to deny Villarreal twice to win the Super Cup for Chelsea.
The German has demonstrated, on both of these occasions, that seemingly unpopular calls can be taken with clear, sensible communication with the players spurned to ensure that no rifts emerge in camp.
That Mendy was one of the first players to rejoice with Kepa demonstrates how Tuchel has installed a team-before-individual mindset among his European champions.
Tuchel will, no doubt, continue to make bold decisions moving forward. His players will have no hesitation in backing their manager’s daring selections either – he has plenty of credit in the bank, after all.