Europa League Final: Eden Hazard scored two goals and made another to help Chelsea thump London rivals Arsenal in Baku and win the Europa League.
Victory gave Blues boss Maurizio Sarri the first trophy of his managerial career and ensured the Gunners will miss out on next season’s Champions League.
With only about 5,000 fans from both sides able to make it to Azerbaijan, there was an eerie atmosphere at the Olympic Stadium in Baku, which appeared less than half full.
That was the surreal setting for a match played 2,500 miles away from both teams’ home, and the game itself was devoid of action before the break before bursting into life early in the second half.
Former Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud broke the deadlock when he met Emerson’s clipped cross with a powerful near-post header that zipped past Petr Cech.
Cech, also facing his old side and playing the final match of his career, could do nothing about Chelsea’s second goal either, with Pedro sweeping home a Hazard cross.
Hazard made it 3-0 from the penalty spot soon after, sending Cech the wrong way after Ainsley Maitland-Niles fouled Giroud.
Substitute Alex Iwobi briefly gave Arsenal hope with a powerful first-time strike moments after coming on.
But Hazard quickly made sure of victory, playing a one-two with Giroud and firing home Chelsea’s fourth goal.
The Belgium forward said after the game it was likely to be his Chelsea “goodbye” as he continues to be linked to Real Madrid.
Hazard says goodbye with sparkling display
Chelsea’s triumph brought them their fifth European title and their first since they won the Europa League in Amsterdam in 2013.
An emotional Sarri celebrated with his players on the pitch, but his future remains in doubt despite ending his first season at Stamford Bridge on a successful note.
Hazard’s departure appears rather more certain, and his performance ensured this game will be at least partly remembered for footballing reasons, after being overshadowed beforehand by politics, plus travel and ticketing issues.
The Chelsea fans who did make it to the game – via train, plane and even taxis – were rewarded by a typically effervescent display from a player who has sparkled for them over the past seven years.
Giroud deserves credit too, particularly for his finish for the opening goal that led to Arsenal’s collapse.
But it was Hazard who made the difference, as so often this season and in previous years.
If he does go, the question is who will replace him?
Cech signs off with painful defeat
While Sarri was able to end his troubled first season with a smile, Arsenal counterpart Unai Emery had to watch in horror as his hopes of leading his side back into the Champions League after a two-year absence disappeared in the space of 16 second-half minutes.
That was how long it took Chelsea to build an unassailable three-goal lead thanks to the kind of Arsenal defensive collapse that has been all too familiar this season.
Emery won this competition three times with Sevilla but this defeat is particularly painful as it will almost certainly significantly affect his summer spending.
The Gunners will be back in the Europa League again next season, but they will be without veteran goalkeeper Cech, who is set to retire at the age of 37.
This was not the fairytale ending his glittering career arguably deserved, but Arsenal’s capitulation was nothing to do with him.
There was little he could do with any of Chelsea’s goals from open play, let alone the penalty, and he actually helped to limit any further damage with some impressive late saves.
Man of the match – Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Match stats – Giroud & Pedro join elite clubs
- Chelsea won their fifth major Uefa European competition final, with only Liverpool winning more among English clubs (eight).
- Arsenal conceded four goals in a European match for the first time since a 5-1 loss to Bayern Munich in March 2017 and were the first team to do so in a Uefa Cup/Europa League final since Middlesbrough lost 4-0 to Sevilla in 2006.
- Chelsea became the first team to win a major European title without losing a game (W12 D3) since Manchester United in the 2007-08 Champions League.
- Arsenal have now lost five of their six major Uefa finals, including their last four in a row (1995 Cup Winners’ Cup, 2000 Uefa Cup, 2006 Champions League, 2019 Europa League).
- Chelsea won 12 Europa League matches during 2018-19. Only one team have won more matches in a major Uefa European competition in one season (Atletico Madrid in 2011-12, 13 wins).
- Olivier Giroud became the first player to score 11 goals in major European competition for an English club since Alan Shearer in 2004-05 for Newcastle United.
- It is a record by a French player in a single European season, breaking the record held by Nestor Combin in 1963-64 (Cup Winners’ Cup) and Just Fontaine in 1958-59 (European Cup).
- Chelsea’s Pedro became the fifth player to score in a European Cup/Champions League and Uefa Cup/Europa League final, after Allan Simonsen, Dmitri Alenichev, Hernan Crespo and Steven Gerrard.
- In his final match, Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech conceded four goals in a match for only the third time in major European competition.
- Chelsea’s starting XI featured no Englishmen, the first time a team had started a major European final without a player from their home nation in their starting line-up since Inter Milan against Bayern Munich in the 2010 Champions League final.
- Eden Hazard scored twice for Chelsea, becoming the first player to do so in the final of a major Uefa competition for an English club since Mark Hughes for Manchester United against Barcelona in the 1991 Cup Winners’ Cup.