Chelsea manager Graham Potter said Aston Villa made his team “suffer” as he and scorer Mason Mount paid tribute to Kepa Arrizabalaga’s masterful performance in their 2-0 win.
The Blues maintained their unbeaten record under former Brighton & Hove Albion bosses with a Premier League win at Villa Park backed by Mount’s brace.
But the guests were drawn to the ropes for a long time, especially in the first half, due to a relentless string of counterattacks from Steven Gerrard, and Kepa was called upon to make a string of superb saves.
Coming into the starting XI at the end of Thomas Tuchel’s tenure to replace the injured Edouard Mendy, the Spaniard kept his place in top form and Potter immediately cited him as the key to their win.
“It was a tough game,” Potter told Sky Sports. Aston Villa made us suffer, especially in the first half, even though we took the lead. We were under pressure and our goalkeeper made some good saves.
“It was a world class game, especially in the first half. I’m very happy for him. Sometimes he had difficult periods for us, but he contributed to the game.”
Mount, whose first finish was the result of a defensive mistake by Tyrone Mings and his second a beautiful free kick, agreed with Potter’s assessment.
“Kepa was on a roll and his quick saves kept us busy,” he added. “He has been great in the last couple of weeks.
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“We have to keep fighting and keep winning games – our goal is to finish as high as possible. Today was not the best performance, and we are unhappy with it, but [we have] leave with a 2-0 win.
Mount’s brace appeared in front of England manager Gareth Southgate, who was watching the game at Villa Park but failed to see Reece James questioning an injury at the World Cup.
Three Lions midfielder Mount admitted he used his chances to avoid hurting the starting line-up for the final in Qatar, adding: “I should just focus on getting things done for the club.
“We know a big World Cup is just around the corner and you want to play as well as you can and hopefully get selected.”
Potter also praised his playmaker, adding, “We have a lot of faith in Mason Mount. We love him as a player and he’s a great guy. You can see the impact he has on the team and he works really hard for us.”