Chelsea beat Arsenal in the Europa League final in Baku to land Maurizio Sarri his first ever trophy as a football manager!
A London derby was the matchup for this years Europa League final. Chelsea and Arsenal were to play each other for the third time this season. Both sides had already recorded victories against each other so this was going to a tough one to call before the game.
This was to be Chelsea’s fourth European final in the last 11 years, winning the Europa League and Champions League once in that time. For Arsenal, this was the first time they had been in a European final since they lost against Barcelona in the 2005/06 Champions League. But where Arsenal lacked in experience their manager Unai Emery more than made up for. The Spaniard has won this competition three times before all with Sevilla. Chelsea’s manager, on the other hand, has never won a trophy in his professional career so this was going to be a huge occasion for him as well as the club.
Both sides had near fully fit sides. Kante managed to make his self available after there was speculation as to whether he would be fit. Mkhitaryan would miss out of the game thought but this was due to political unrest between his home country Armenia and Azerbaijan. Rudiger was missing the game for Chelsea through injury.
The game had received a lot of hype prior to the match and this wasn’t due to the football itself. Mkhitaryan not travelling due to it not being safe was a major talking point. Also, with the game being in Baku it was very hard for anyone to get there! Both clubs were given 6000 and neither side managed to sell all of their allocations. UEFA received much criticism for its choice of ground for the final.
Arsenal started the match the brighter of the two sides. They kept Chelsea mainly in their half and put a lot of pressure on them. Arsenal had a couple of half chances but their first one was after 15 minutes. Lacazette was played through one on one with Arrizabalaga and chose to try and go around him. The Arsenal striker hit the floor but the ref didn’t give a penalty. Replays showed that the Chelsea keeper did actually catch his foot as he went through and it could have been a penalty.
Arsenal then nearly scored through Xhaka. The centre defensive midfielder has never been one to shy away from a shot and nearly gave them the lead. A shot from outside the box had Kepa beaten but clipped the bar on the way through. Chelsea did have a chance in the first half but it came just before the end. Giroud took the shot on from outside the box trying to place it in the bottom right corner but Cech got down to make a great save.
Chelsea came out though a much better side in the second half. On the 48th minute, Emerson put in a low cross that Giroud somehow managed to get his head too it. He guided it with pace into the bottom left corner beating Cech and giving his side a 1-0 lead. Chelsea then doubled their lead on the 60th minute. Hazard pulled the ball back to Pedro who placed it into the bottom right corner with a good finish.
Hazard then got in on the act when Giroud was fouled in the box. A penalty that was put down the middle as Cech was sent the wrong way. Iwobi did give Arsenal something to cheer about. The ball fell to him on the edge of the box and his smashed a half volley past Arrizabalaga and Arsenal has a slight glimmer of hope. But then the game was put to bed on the 72nd minute. Giroud dinked the ball over the top for Hazard who ran onto it in the box and first time volleyed it into the bottom left corner. This was probably going to be Hazards last goal for his side.
The full-time whistle went and Chelsea had won their second Europa League final. Hazard also said after the game he was wanting a new challenge and hinted that this would be the last we would see of him in a Chelsea shirt.
Next season odds
Chelsea can’t make any transfers this summer. With them likely to lose Hazard their real aim next season should be top four. Arsenal have missed out again and need a lot of players to give them a chance of even challenging for the league. Again for them, top four is probably their aim next year. Both sides are 11/10 to get in the top four next year on Bet365.