UEFA Europa League Final: Chelsea vs Arsenal
Date: 29 May 2019 | Venue: Olympic Stadium, Baku, Azerbaijan
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (ITA)
It was everything London right from the beginning when Jonas Blue got things underway with the opening ceremony which was kind of underwhelming.
History was made when Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was used for the first time in the Europa League and a major European final.
Arsenal got things underway and saw an early chance within the first 10 minutes when Maitland-Niles ran through the Chelsea defence and saw his cross parried away poorly by Kepa which fell right into the path of Aubameyang who smashed it wide with half of the goal open.
Chelsea moved well around the opposition box but couldn’t produce anything in the opening quarter-hour. Arsenal were the better side and they had a dangerous attack when Kolasinac was left free on the wing and Azpilicueta made a vital block to send it out for a corner. A poor Azpilicueta clearance saw the ball headed towards Lacazette who ran behind the Chelsea defence and went down when Kepa came rushing towards him, but VAR eventually ruled it out for a stumble and goal kick was given.
Emerson was left trailing by Maitland-Niles whose low cross was defended by Jorginho to give Arsenal a corner. An over the air ball directed towards Lacazette saw Azpilicueta and Kepa undergo a nasty collision which left them both in pain.
The first real attack from Chelsea came when Kante was free on the right-hand side whose cross towards Giroud saw his flick from his left foot hit his right boot and eventually run out for goal kick. A long-range shot from the right boot of Xhaka smooched the crossbar at the end of a good build up from Aubameyang.
A Chelsea attack from out of the blue saw Cech’s poor clearance find Hazard who set up Emerson whose shot was deflected behind for a corner. Kolasinac then shot against Azpilicueta to deflect it for a corner which produced nothing. A smooth move from Chelsea saw Hazard’s flick find Emerson who registered the first shot on target for Chelsea. Continuous build-up and desire to win the ball in the opposition half saw Chelsea build a strong attack until Emerson’s cross was too strong for Giroud.
Chelsea were caught sleeping for the 3rd time on the right-hand side when Kepa parried a shot from Kolasinac which ricocheted back before they eventually cleared. It wasn’t until the 39th minute when Chelsea had the ball and passed it around as they usually do with the ‘Sarriball’ when Giroud’s strong shot was pushed away by Cech which was eventually cleared by Monreal.
Another round of consistent build-up saw Chelsea keep possession and attack the Arsenal half for a few minutes. Hazard went on a good run through the Arsenal half only to find Emerson in the offside position.
Going into halftime both teams had their chances but Arsenal were better than Chelsea in certain aspects and would hope to build upon it.
The crowd support was poor and both teams needed some motivation to get past the line but it never came in the first half. A below par atmosphere made it worse than a friendly and fans went about it on twitter.
The second half started with Chelsea attacking the Arsenal goal when Giroud shot Hazard’s pass for Cech to save. It had to be the history between the 2 clubs when Giroud headed in Emerson’s through cross in signature style which brought the stadium to life for a few minutes.
A reply in attack from Arsenal saw Chelsea scrambling to get them out of the penalty box with Kante and Christensen working hard to clear the ball. A swift counter saw Chelsea hold possession and Hazard setup Pedro who placed the ball in the far corner past the reach of Petr Cech. With half an hour to go and Chelsea leading 2-0 Unai Emery was clearly frustrated unlike his counter part who showed no emotion contrary to yesterday’s events when he stromed out of training throwing a tantrum.
Another bout of attack from the west Londoners saw Giroud, Pedro and Hazard get involved before Maitland-Niles bought down Giroud in the penalty area and Hazard then took the penalty in ice-cold fashion in what might be his last Chelsea appearance.
Unai Emery had no option but to make the substitutions when he brought on Alex Iwobi and Matteo Guendouzi to replace Nacho Monreal and Lucas Torreira. The change proved fruitful as Iwobi won a free kick right away on the left and scored an absolute beauty from the build-up giving Kepa no chance at all and suddenly a boring dull first half turned into a goal-fest in 25 minutes.
Chelsea made their first substitution when Willian came on for Pedro and soon enough good link-up play saw Hazard have a little 1-2 with Giroud to score his second of the night to make it 4-1.
Despite not having a say in any of the goals, Jorginho had considerable impact in the Chelsea midfield and should be given the praise he deserves. Another build up for Chelsea saw Hazard take a crack at goal from outside the box only for Cech to deny his hattrick.
Sarri brought on Barkley on for Kovacic who might not be returning to Chelsea in a permanent deal this summer. Emery brought on Academy graduate Willock on for the forgotten Ozil. Chelsea then saw Willian’s shot at goal pushed away by Cech to a wasteful Chelsea corner.
A really beautiful build-up saw Chelsea run through the tired Arsenal defence to get a corner and hold the ball around the penalty area when Hazard setup Azpilicueta who rocketed the ball across the goal which was inches away from the post. Arsenal continued to attack but were clearly tired. A good ball over the top from Iwobi saw Kepa save a blinder and Christensen provide backup to block the shot at open goal before it was ruled offside. Arsenal had chances to get back in the game but with 4-1 down and demoralised they never had the finishing touch they needed.
A late foul saw Lacazette over the dead ball within shooting distance who put it wide past the near post. A collision with Willock saw Hazard go down and was immediately replaced by Zappacosta for his Chelsea farewell greeted by the Chelsea dugout and applauded by the entire stadium.
Given Kante was a doubt for this game and Sarri made the call right before kick off to start him he had a fantastic game and was ever present throughout the pitch.
The blue dugout was all laughs when the final whistle was blown and they won a trophy they deserved. They were favourites right from the beginning and went on an unbeaten run with only 3 draws to clinch the title. This may not be the Champions league, but it’s a trophy still worth winning. This caps of a good season for Chelsea who have already secured Champions League football and were runners up in the league cup final.
Any football fan would feel for Petr Cech who not only misses the chance to win a trophy but also concedes 4 in his farewell game. Hazard gets his fairytale send-off while Cech misses out.
Maurizio Sarri becomes the oldest manager to win the Europa League surpassing Jose Mourinho and it’s not a bad way to win the first trophy of his career.