?Chelsea have won the 2019 Europa League after four goals in 23 minutes sealed a convincing win over London rivals Arsenal in Baku.
In a first half containing little quality, Granit Xhaka’s long range effort clipped the bar on its way over, before
The Blues took the lead in the 49th minute when Emerson’s teasing low cross was met by Giroud, whose sensational diving header found the bottom corner, though the Frenchman refused to celebrate against his former club.
Maurizio Sarri’s side doubled their lead on the hour mark after a slick attacking move led to Eden Hazard teeing up Pedro, who expertly dispatched the ball at the first time of asking.
Five minutes later, Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ clumsy challenge on Giroud in the area gifted Hazard the opportunity to score on what was almost certainly his final appearance for the club, one which the Belgian calmly took to put the Blues three up.
Alex Iwobi’s superb volley from outside the box pulled one back for the Gunners, but Hazard scored his second shortly after after superb work from Giroud to clinch Chelsea’s third major European trophy in eight years.
Key Talking Point
All the speculation before the game was that this would not only be the final match of Eden Hazard’s Chelsea career, but also the farewell evening for manager Maurizio Sarri, who is reportedly unhappy with life in English football and has been heavily linked with the vacant Juventus job.
Following a very public strop after an argument in training between senior Chelsea players, Sarri needed his side to refocus to help deliver his first trophy as a manager.
After a slow start, the Blues started to shift through the gears before half time, with Hazard beginning to take the game by the scruff of the neck, as his side looked dangerous against Arsenal’s back three on the counter.
Giroud’s header and outstanding contribution ultimately made this a comfortable evening for the west London club, and in truth, they should have scored plenty more against a mediocre Arsenal side.
#cfc devastating on the counter. Aubameyang lost the ball, Hazard, Giroud, Hazard, 4-1.
— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) May 29, 2019
A perfect sendoff for their talisman Hazard, and their thoroughly deserved win in the Azerbaijan capital rounds off what must be considered a successful season for the club; even if questions remain over Sarri’s future.
Starting XI: Kepa (6); Azpilicueta (7), Christensen (8), Luiz (7), Emerson (7); Jorginho (7), Kante (6), Kovacic (8); Pedro (7), Giroud (8*), Hazard (8).
Substitutes: Willian (7), Barkley (6), Zappacosta (N/A).
STAR MAN – People may see this as Hazard’s final with his two goals, but this was all about Olivier Giroud.
He was absolutely unplayable in the second half, and played a big part in three of the four Chelsea goals, including a sensational header to make the all important breakthrough.
Hazard has spoken on numerous occasions this season regarding his love of playing when the Frenchman is playing as a target man in the side, and on this evidence it’s not difficult to see why.
The catalyst behind their victory with his tireless effort, there’s no doubt that the Europa League’s top scorer this season should be starting for the Blues upfront next season.
Key Talking Point
Following a calamitous end to their Premier League campaign in which they finished outside of the Champions League places, this was a game that Arsenal absolutely had to win.
Unai Emery started with an attacking lineup, and they clearly had a first half game plan to exploit Chelsea’s flanks, with Kolasinac and Maitland-Niles often finding space, but both failed to deliver the key final ball.
Then Chelsea scored just after half-time, and it all came crashing down.
All of a sudden, it looked as if all the energy was sapped out of the Gunners, and their fans, and Unai Emery, will be seriously concerned about how easily the team collapsed.
They were quite frankly lucky to only concede four, and some serious work needs to be done at the Emirates this summer, who will have to settle for third consecutive season of Europa League football.
Chelsea just too slick for Arsenal #UELFinal
Would be a shocking week for the Gunners if Spurs win the CL too ?
— Dan Walker (@mrdanwalker) May 29, 2019
Starting XI: Cech (7*); Sokratis (5), Koscielny (5), Monreal (5); Maitland-Niles (6), Torreira (6), Xhaka (5), Kolasinac (6), Ozil (4); Lacazette (6), Aubameyang (5).
Substitutes: Guendouzi (5), Iwobi (6), Willock (6).
STAR MAN -? Chelsea were threatening to make this a humiliating evening for the North London club, and it probably would have been if it wasn’t for Petr Cech.
In his final professional match, the 37-year-old looked to be the only Arsenal player who looked like he still cared about keeping the game to a football score rather than a cricket one.
He pulled off at least three superb saves, and he can be proud of the fact that while his phenomenal career may have ended in a painful defeat against his old club, he could do nothing to stop any of the strikes flying past him.
A truly superb goalkeeper and role model, who deserved a lot better than this on his farewell appearance