Europa League Final
Chelsea 4-1 Arsenal
Chelsea produced a superb second-half display to win the Europa League, beating Arsenal 4-1 in the final in Baku on Wednesday.
Former Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud, Pedro and Eden Hazard (2) scored the goals which earned Maurizio Sarri silverware in what could be his final match in charge. The Gunners, meanwhile, were left to contemplate another season in the Europa League, with only Alex Iwobi’s consolation to show for it.
Hazard was superb for Chelsea as his reported move to Real Madrid appears to edge closer.
“My dream was to play in the Premier League and I did it for seven years,” Hazard, who joined Chelsea in 2012, told a television reporter shortly after the final whistle. “Maybe I think it is time to say goodbye.
“We will decide in a few days and the only target in my mind was to win this final. I have made my decision already and now I’m waiting on both clubs. I think it is a goodbye, but in football you never know.”
That said, Arsenal were by far the better side in the first 45 minutes but crumbled after the break, their defensive inadequacies clear for all to see.
The first chance of the game fell to Arsenal after seven minutes, and it was Kepa Arrizabalaga who almost gifted them a goal. Ainsley Maitland-Niles delivered what appeared to be a harmless cross from the right, but the goalkeeper only palmed the ball into the path of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – but the striker dragged his shot well wide.
VAR showed its face for the first time in the 18th minute. Alexandre Lacazette broke through into the box and edged the ball past Kepa before going to ground. Referee Gianluca Rocchi pointed for a goal kick before the video assistant checked for a possible penalty, but advised the on-pitch decision was correct and there was no review.
Granit Xhaka tried his luck from 25 yards with his weaker right foot, a great effort that just clipped the top of the bar. Cesar Azpilicueta then got a block on a Sead Kolasinac effort which just looped over the top of Kepa’s goal.
Chelsea had enjoyed some more promising moments, and finally had a shot of note in the 34th minute. Hazard flicked a pass into the path of Emerson Palmieri, who’s left-footed drive was beaten away by Cech.
Cech had to come to the rescue again six minutes later when shovelling away a shot from Giroud.
The opening goal came four minutes after the break as Giroud haunted his old club. Emerson saw the run of the France international across the box and picked him out perfectly, Giroud stooping to head into the bottom corner. It was his 11th of the Europa League campaign to make him the outright top scorer in the competition.
Chelsea doubled their lead on the hour. Mateo Kovacic intelligently held onto the ball waiting for Hazard on the overlap, and he picked out Pedro for a simple first-time finish past Cech.
Minutes later Maitland-Niles bundled over Giroud inside the box, leaving Rocchi with a simple decision to point to the spot. Hazard coolly slotted down in the middle to make it three.
Arsenal were given a glimmer of hope in the 69th minute as Alex Iwobi produced a fine long-range effort which gave Kepa no chance.
It was no more than a glimmer, as Hazard added a fourth within three minutes. Hazard played in Giroud, and the striker delivered the one-two back to Hazard who continued his run and finished with a half-volley.
Check then had to get down smartly to deny Hazard a hat trick, before pushing Willian’s shot behind for a corner. Azpilicueta then fired a yard wide as Chelsea completely dominated Arsenal.
Lacazette had the chance to pull a goal back when springing the offside trap but this time it was Kepa’s time to deny the opposition. Substitute Joseph Willock then curled wide of the post when he simply had to score to sum up Arsenal’s night.