Chelsea 1 Aston Villa 1 (4-3 pens): Kepa Arrizabalaga saves in shootout as Reece James' winning pen sends Blues through

KEPA ARRIZABALAGA piled more pressure on Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel with another show of penalty heroics.

The Spanish keeper was handed a second start in a row with first choice Edouard Mendy injured — and he is proving hard to shift.

Kepa’s superb one-handed stop to deny Villa midfielder Marvellous Nakamba from the spot helped send his team through on a nervy night.

And it came just a few weeks after he saved two penalties in Chelsea’s Super Cup victory over Villarreal.

Defender Reece James then followed on from Kepa to lash home the decisive effort from 12 yards to set up a fourth-round tie with Southampton and maintain Chelsea’s unbeaten record this term.

For a time it looked as if a hugely reshuffled side might succumb after Villa came back from the dead to level in a gripping game and then threaten to snatch a shock win.

With the entire outfield team rotated from Sunday’s 3-0 win over Spurs, it was no surprise Chelsea looked different.

But while it was an under-par first half in terms of goal threats, there were tidy performances from players who do not normally surface on match days.


Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Trevoh Chalobah in particular formed a strong spine from midfield back to the heart of the Blues’ defence.

Tuchel also dusted cobwebs off left-back Ben Chilwell, starting his first competitive match for either club or country since the  Champions League final in May.

Most Premier League teams with a reasonable amount of ambition treat the early rounds of this competition as a practice match for their B squads.

And while that can mean a little less stardust sprinkled over a cup tie under the lights, it offers a glimpse of the lesser-used names on the rota.

One name which had significance on both sides was Villa winger Bertrand Traore, the ex-Chelsea youth teamer  whose controversial signing as a kid triggered his old club’s recent transfer ban.

Traore enjoyed himself against Chelsea debutant Malang Sarr, who evidently needs time to adjust to English football, along with new Spanish midfielder Saul Niguez.

Both men were off the pace. Sarr has youthful inexperience as a valid excuse, Saul is vastly more accomplished and may be finding it harder to adjust to England than anticipated.

Traore set up the visitors’ best chance of the first half when he got the better of Sarr and pushed a diagonal ball into the path of Villa’s rookie striker Cameron Archer.

His shot cannoned off Chelsea keeper Kepa and the rebound fell to Anwar El Ghazi.

Villa would have taken the lead if James had not handily placed himself on the goal-line to clear the follow-up.

Timo Werner’s 54th-minute header put Chelsea in front and also increased the tempo of an all-Premier League clash.

James had positioned himself well again, this time on the edge of the Villa box to drop a cross into the six-yard area.

Werner climbed to head home via the outstretched hand of Jed Steer to claim his first goal for Chelsea since early May and the Champions League semi- final against Real Madrid.

Hakim Ziyech forced a one-handed save from Steer with a shot on the turn and Villa replied with Traore smashing a drive straight at Kepa.

The visitors were enjoying themselves, despite chasing the game, and equalised with a superb goal from academy rookie Archer in the 64th minute.

Villa fan Prince William was in the Stamford Bridge crowd and on his feet in celebration at a cracking goal.


Full-back Matty Cash steamed along the right flank and curled a whipped cross at height and speed into the heart of the Chelsea box.

Archer, who missed a golden chance in the first half with his feet, planted a header into the net with remarkable calm for a player just 19.

Only for Kepa to upstage him in the shootout.

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