Thomas Tuchel’s controversial decision to substitute Edouard Mendy for Kepa Arrizabalaga in Chelsea’s Carabao Cup defeat to Liverpool has been defended by ex-Blues defender Mario Melchiot.
Goalkeeper Kepa was brought on specifically for the penalty shootout after Mendy had delivered a masterclass to keep the match goalless.
All the outfield players scored and after Caoimhin Kelleher netted, Kepa ballooned his spot-kick over the bar
The decision backfired as Kepa failed to stop all 11 penalties and then blazed his own over the bar, as the Reds claimed a dramatic 11-10 victory.
Many have questioned Tuchel’s call, including talkSPORT’s own Ally McCoist, who branded it ‘one of the poorest decisions any coach will ever make’.
The Rangers legend told the Breakfast Show: “I get what he’s trying to do but sometimes I think you can be too clever.
“Mendy, I don’t think he’ll have another game like that in his life.
“I wouldn’t have made the decision, just because I think Mendy was having one of those games.
“What if I’m a Liverpool player? I’m ecstatic with that decision! This guy for 120 minutes has been unbeatable, taking him off would’ve given the Liverpool players a boost.
“We’re sitting here with hindsight. As decisions go, it wasn’t just wrong, it was one of the poorest decisions any coach will ever make.
“In a move to try and win the cup, the goalkeeper actually cost you the cup.”
But former defender Melchiot insists he would’ve made the same call to take Mendy off.
Kepa’s Chelsea career has not gone to plan since arriving as the most expensive goalkeeper in history in 2018 – but the Spaniard was something of a penalty specialist before Sunday’s events.
Despite his infamous refusal to come off in the shootout defeat to Man City in 2019, it was Kepa’s penalty heroics which got the Blues to that final and helped them lift the Europa League later that year.
Earlier this season, the same substitution saw Kepa inspire Chelsea to a Super Cup victory over Villarreal, while penalty saves in this season’s Carabao Cup campaign against Southampton and Aston Villa helped guide the Blues to Wembley.
Melchiot said: “People will jump on it and say, ‘Why did you do it?’ But he did it before and it’s not the first time I’ve seen this happen.
“Holland did it and it worked as well. If it worked, nobody would talk about it.
“How can you get through the whole team, everybody scores and then it comes to the goalkeeper? That’s one of the hardest things, you don’t expect that to happen.”
Asked whether the Liverpool players would’ve taken such emphatic penalties against Mendy, Melchot added: “Yes. When it comes to the penalty record, Kepa is normally way more confident, Chelsea are usually way more confident about Kepa than they are about Mendy.
“It doesn’t mean Mendy is no good. But Kepa has a better record, so that’s why they did it.
“Tuchel said the right thing, they talked about it before. If something works, why would you change it?
“If you have the feeling that goalkeeper is better at penalties. Mendy would be my first goalkeeper, yes.
“But if I see that my second goalkeeper is good at penalties, why would I not take the advantage and put him on?
“If it doesn’t work out, later on I will figure it out. He took that step and I would’ve done the same.”