'All is forgiven': Kepa the shoot-out hero as Hazard fires Chelsea into Europa League final
Chelsea took the lead midway through the first half through Ruben Loftus-Cheek's calmly-taken effort, but the tension levels were cranked up when Luka Jovic netted an equaliser three minutes into the second half.
It set the stage for a tense, tight remainder of the match as both sides tried to balance their need for a winning goal with the fear of making a crucial error in front of their own net.
And after the remaining 40 minutes of regulation time, then an even more tense half-hour of extra time, the match went to a dramatic penalty shoot-out, where Spanish goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga stepped up to make himself a hero as he redeemed himself for past indiscretions with the club.
Kepa to Chelsea fans: Calm down guys, I gotcha pic.twitter.com/2xtlgB9STS— Nouman (@nomifooty) May 9, 2019
The Chelsea keeper refused to be substituted by manager Maurizio Sarri ahead of a losing shoot-out at the EFL Cup Final as he was widely criticized for his attitude.
But Kepa's spot-kick heroics received widespread praise from fans on social media, with Twitter user @Blue_Footy saying the Spanish keeper's shoot-out saves redeemed him for his Cup Final meltdown.
"All Kepa's sins have been forgiven. Go save pens, shots and sin no more," he tweeted, while another concurred, tweeting: "ALL IS FORGIVEN FROM THE CARABAO CUP"
All Kepa's sins have been forgiven. Go save pens, shots and sin no more. 😍— Sarrismo™ (@Blue_Footy) May 9, 2019
KEPA ARRIZABALAGA ALL IS FORGIVEN FROM THE CARABAO CUP— FutbolChelsea (@FutbolCheIsea) May 9, 2019
The Spanish stopper stood tall and saved twice - from Martin Hinteregger and Goncalo Paciencia - to leave Eden Hazard with the opportunity to send the Blues to the final.
The Chelsea playmaker has been persistently linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge this summer, with many believing the Frankfurt game was his final match in Chelsea colours on the club's home turf.
And his final kick of the season at Stamford Bridge may prove to be his parting gift to the Chelsea fans, as he coolly tucked away his penalty to send his side to the final in Baku.Also on rt.com 'Iconic performance': Aubameyang treble fires Arsenal to Europa League final