It was an all London affair in the Europa League Final in Baku, as Chelsea took on Arsenal at the Olympic Stadium.
The Europa League presented Maurizio Sarri with the opportunity to lift the first trophy of his managerial career, while Unai Emery and his Arsenal side were looking to qualify for the Champions League for the 19/20 campaign.
An English Final
You could say that it was somewhat of a strange final, with the stadium being less than half full. Around 10,000 Arsenal and Chelsea fans made the 2,500-mile journey to Azerbaijan, as both clubs returned tickets due to the obscure location and travelling difficulties. However, it was set to be a great occasion as Europe is once again being dominated by Premier League sides.
Cautious First Half But….
The first half of the game was very much devoid of action, with the match being somewhat of a cagey affair. Everyone was desperate for the final to spring into life after the break, and it did, almost immediately. Former Gunners striker Olivier Giroud managed to break the deadlock on 49 minutes, when he met Emerson’s cross with a near-post header and flew past former Chelsea stalwart Petr Cech.
Cech, like Giroud, was facing his former club, and he was beaten again just over ten minutes later, as Pedro swept home from an Eden Hazard cross. Cech was playing his last game as a professional, and things went from bad to worse as Ainsley Maitland-Niles felled Giroud in the box, with Hazard putting Sarri’s men 3-0 up from the spot, and in control of the tie. Arsenal were sinking without a trace, and it was fast heading towards an embarrassing score line.
Arsenal Subs Brief Impact
Alex Iwobi, who had been introduced in the 67th minute as a substitute for Lucas Torreira, did manage to pull one back for Arsenal just a couple of minutes after coming on, but Eden Hazard restored Chelsea’s three goal lead just a few minutes later after playing a one-two with Giroud and firing home.
The game seemed to be a farewell of sorts for Eden Hazard, wo has been heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid this summer. Speaking following his glittering display the Belgian said, “I think it’s goodbye but in football you never know.” On this showing, he’s a player who Chelsea will miss greatly next season, especially as they will be unable to replace him under their current transfer ban.
Arsenal Poor Again
While lifting the Europa League trophy proved to be a great end to the season for Chelsea, Arsenal losing, and in the manner they did, hasn’t been well received. It means Arsenal won’t be playing Champions League football next season, therefore potentially hindering their recruitment hopes for the summer.
Emery Remains Positive
Unai Emery was quick to suggest that “a lot of players” want to play for Arsenal regardless. The 47-year old insisted “We are calm, and I am positive for our future.” He then went on to add, “We are a big team and arsenal are a big name in the football world. A lot of players want to play here.”