Chelsea win the 2019 UEFA Europa League
Wednesday, 29 May 2019
Eden Hazard scored two of Chelsea's four second-half goals as Maurizio Sarri's side blew Arsenal away.
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Chelsea overran London rivals Arsenal in Baku, striking four times in the second half of the final to hand Maurizio Sarri his first trophy as a coach.
Arsenal edged the formative stages with Granit Xhaka's drive from distance clipping the top of the bar, before former Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Čech, playing the last game of his illustrious career, denied Emerson Palmieri and Olivier Giroud before the interval.
The contest needed a spark and Giroud provided it, darting in front of Laurent Koscielny to meet Emerson's pinpoint delivery with a diving header. It was the French striker's 11th of the campaign and sealed his position outright at the top of the tournament scoring charts.
Eden Hazard had been a peripheral figure to that point but the Belgian schemer made his mark on the hour, cutting back a low cross that Pedro Rodríguez swept across Čech to give Sarri's men breathing space.
Two quickly became three when Hazard coolly dispatched a penalty after Ainsley Maitland-Niles had barged over Giroud and, though substitute Alex Iwobi's stunning drive gave the Gunners fleeting hope, Hazard iced the cake from Giroud's nonchalant chip.
Hazard lays ghost of 2013 to rest
Chelsea produced a showing full of all their final experience and know-how – with a pinch of 'Sarriball' to boot. Jorginho, N'Golo Kanté and the impressively industrious Mateo Kovačić controlled the midfield from the half-hour mark, laying the platform for Giroud, Pedro and, of course, Hazard, to weave their magic. The Belgian, who missed the 2013 UEFA Europa League final through injury, was irrepressible and unstoppable six years on. He has his moment and Chelsea have theirs.
Dan Thacker, Chelsea reporter
Blues win the midfield battle
Arsenal were actually the brighter side for much of the first half in Baku, with Lucas Torreira imposing himself in a fractious opening. Slowly but surely, though, Chelsea gained a stranglehold, squeezing tighter and pushing higher (Čech never had a free pass) until, four minutes after the restart, the Gunners were breached. And there was no respite, no resting on laurels. The hard press simply got harder. Iwobi's thunderbolt aside, Arsenal had no answer.
John Atkin, Arsenal reporter
Man of the match presented by Hankook Tire Europe: Eden Hazard
"Hazard was dangerous throughout the game," explained Thomas Schaaf, lead technical observer. "He was difficult for Arsenal to deal with when the ball was at his feet, he opened space and linked well with his fellow attackers and was involved in all goals."
2: This is the fourth time in five years that a player has scored twice in the final: Carlos Bacca (2015), Coke (2016) and Antoine Griezmann (2018) before Giroud tonight.
4: Giroud made it four straight finals in which a Frenchman has found the net: Kevin Gameiro (2016), Paul Pogba (2017) and Griezmann (2018) the others.
11: Giroud's goal made him the outright top scorer in the competition this season with 11.
13: Chelsea are the 13th club to win multiple UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League titles.
60: Sarri is the UEFA Europa League's oldest winning coach at 60 years and 139 days.
140: Čech retires after making 140 appearances in UEFA club competition, keeping 59 clean sheets.
Ross Barkley (England) and Granit Xhaka (Switzerland) head off to Portugal for the four-team UEFA Nations League Finals that kick off next Wednesday, while several players are on duty at the European Qualifiers.
Chelsea will take on Tottenham or Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup in Istanbul on Wednesday 14 August, just after the opening round of Premier League fixtures. The 2019/20 UEFA Europa League season kicks off in only 29 days' time, on 27 June.
More immediately, UEFA's Technical Observers select their 18-man squad of the UEFA Europa League season on Thursday, with their pick of the competition's ten best goals to follow shortly after.