Liverpool successfully saw off Chelsea to win the Carabao Cup on Sunday and claim their first silverware at Wembley in more than a decade in an entertaining final that went the full distance and ended in misery for Kepa Arrizabalaga.
After 120 action-packed minutes produced no goals (thanks partly to VAR), the final went to penalties, but not before Chelsea made a tactical switch of goalkeepers ahead of the shootout.
Blues coach Thomas Tuchel elected to bring Arrizabalaga off the bench a few minutes before full-time, with the Spain international -- nominally a penalty specialist -- coming on to replace Edouard Mendy, who had been in exceptional form on the night.
Unfortunately the shootout didn't exactly pan out as Tuchel envisioned, as Arrizabalaga failed to save any of Liverpool's penalties. However, in fairness, neither did his Liverpool counterpart, Caoimhin Kelleher. As such, the two goalkeepers were required to step up and take kicks themselves, with the score level at 10-10 after every single outfield player on both sides had scored.
Kelleher netted his attempt, setting up Arrizabalaga's grim cameo to end in the worst way when he thumped the decisive spot kick several feet over the crossbar to hand victory to Liverpool.
To make things even worse, the shootout was taking place at the Liverpool end, meaning Arrizabalaga had the best view in the stadium of the Reds' fans jubilant celebrations behind the goal.
𝙏𝙝𝙤𝙨𝙚 𝙘𝙚𝙡𝙚𝙗𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨 🤩 pic.twitter.com/xWs28pvejK— Liverpool FC (@LFC) February 27, 2022
Of course, social media was exactly as forgiving as you'd expect as the beleaguered Blues shot-stopper came in for a fair amount of criticism in the aftermath.
That must be a first. Bring on a keeper for a penalty shootout and the only player out of 22 to miss is that substitute keeper, Kepa.— Gary Lineker 💙 (@GaryLineker) February 27, 2022
Feel for Kepa there. Had a great game otherwise.— Kevin Bridges (@kevinbridges86) February 27, 2022
Kepa brought on to save penalties to then miss the decisive penalty in the shootout is just Pure Carabao pic.twitter.com/Sfu15hWRP6— Ben McAleer (@BenMcAleer1) February 27, 2022
I will tell my kids this was a goal kick from Kepa pic.twitter.com/hwiD1T6L7v— Thierry Nyann (@nyannthierry) February 27, 2022
The Chelsea keeper has previous when it comes to Carabao Cup finals, having refused to be substituted in extra time the 2019 edition against Manchester City.
Arrizabalaga openly defied an order from then-Blues boss Maurizio Sarri at the end of extra time and remained on the pitch for the ensuing shootout -- a "misunderstanding" that saw him fined and dropped.
Kepa Arrizabalaga refusing to come off in 2019 League Cup final before losing the penalty shootout. Then coming on in the final three years later, saving 0 of 11 penalties then skying his over the bar. Can't argue with the narrative.— Colin Millar (@Millar_Colin) February 27, 2022
Kepa should have refused to come on— Matthew Stanger (@MatthewStanger) February 27, 2022
The extent to which Kepa's grandchildren are not going to be allowed to mention League Cup finals at family gatherings >>>>— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) February 27, 2022
If Arrizabalaga needs any pointers on how goalkeepers should take penalties, he could do worse than following the example set by Kelleher. With the pressure mounting, Kelleher kept his nerve to confidently send Arrizabalaga the wrong way and take the Reds to within one fateful spot kick of glory.
Many keepers have demonstrated admirable technique from the spot over the years with some even taking over regular penalty duties for the sides.
After saving Juan Mata's opening effort in the 2012 Champions League final shootout, Bayern Munich's No. 1 Manuel Neuer stepped up to fire his side's third spot kick past Petr Cech against Chelsea though unfortunately still found himself on the losing side.
Maverick goalkeepers such as Jose Luis Chilavert and Hans-Jorg Butt both forged reputations as bona fide penalty specialists during their careers, to the point where they both regularly took spot kicks for their teams during normal time.
Legendary Paraguayan GK Jose Chilavert took many penalties & freekicks. But he'll wish he didn't go up for this... pic.twitter.com/LI4OGi7X3x— Deji Faremi (@deejayfaremi) October 20, 2016
However, both also fell foul of being caught upfield after failing to convert, allowing opposing teams to capitalise with the goal left vacant at the other end.
Arrizabalaga should have a word with fellow countryman David de Gea, who has also suffered the misfortune of missing a vital spot kick in a big cup final.
🟡 Gerónimo Rulli was the hero of the night, scoring Villarreal's 11th penalty and saving David de Gea's effort in the #UEL final penalty shoot-out 👏@VillarrealCFen | #SuperCup pic.twitter.com/6a65K530lR— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) August 10, 2021
It took 21 penalties to decide the 2021 Europa League final between Manchester United and Villarreal, and it was De Gea who brought things to an end with a tame side-footed shot that was easily parried by Geronimo Rulli.
Perhaps De Gea and Arrizabalaga should give serious thought to starting a support group for similarly affected goalkeepers around the world.