Hazard Pops a Pair as Chelsea Claim Europa League Title
The Premiership must be so proud.
The globe's most-followed sporting enterprise cornered football's two most-heralded club competitions this season:
- Tottenham and Liverpool will compete for the Champions League title on the weekend, and
- Chelsea and Arsenal duked it out in Azerbaijan, where UEFA curiously placed its Europa League championship match.
It's curious because Baku isn't even in Europe unless someone finds it useful to say it is. What's more, it's a bitch destination for Englanders to get to, and it barely has the facilities to accommodate a championship crowd.
Worse, after much consideration, Arsenal decided Azerbaijan was too dangerous for an Armenian like Henrikh Mkhitaryan to show his face.
Arsenal manager Udai Emery had seen this movie before. The Spaniard's won the Europa three times with Sevilla, but this time -- especially without Mkhitaryan -- it wasn't his night.
Not that the Gunners didn't give it a go. Dudes were the brighter side in the first half, mainly in the early stages. Maurizio Sarri's Chelsea seemed a little bit lost at first and were a tad lucky to make it to half-time with a clean sheet. Granit Xhaka had the best chance, but his shot from distance went just off the crossbar.
Sarri's team talk at the break seemed to have solved the lack of clinical edge, because the Blues came back dominating Arsenal.
The Frenchman dove and headed home past Petr Čech.
A mere five minutes later, Giroud was fouled by Maitland-Niles inside the box, which was an easy call for the referee.
Hazard stepped up and slotted home from the spot.
Emery then introduced Alex Iwobi, who made an instant impact.
Chelsea's defense had trouble clearing a free-kick, and the ball fell to Iwobi. Dude struck home a half-volley from the box's edge. No chance for Kepa Arrizabalaga:
Chelsea soon killed any hopes for an improbable Arsenal comeback when Giroud set up Hazard.
Piece of cake for the Belgian international to make it four from close-range:
It was a special night for Sarri, who earned his first silverware as a manager. It was an awkwardly special night for Hazard, too, with his future in doubt at Stamford Bridge.
As to Arsenal, this loss confirmed their return to the Europa. They finished fifth in the Premiership, so ...
What would Arsène have said?