On Wednesday night, Chelsea recorded a comfortable 4-1 win over London rivals Arsenal in the Europa League final in Baku. Eden Hazard stole the show in the second period with two goals and an assist.
Chelsea too strong in the second half
The first half of this clash went by with just a few main talking points. One was whether Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette should have had a penalty after a clash with Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa. The other main action saw Gunners Petr Cech get down well to save an effort from Blues striker Olivier Giroud.
However, the former Arsenal frontman did get on the scoresheet four minutes into the second period. Full-back Emerson fired in a cross and the striker adjusted his body to head home past Cech.
The Blues doubled their lead 11 minutes later. A good team move eventually ended with Hazard squaring the ball to Pedro in the area and the Spaniard produced a clinical finish past Cech.
Hazard got on the scoresheet on 65 minutes. Ainsley Maitland-Niles produced a clumsy tackle on Giroud and Hazard stroked home the spot-kick past Cech. Arsenal looked to have a slight glimmer of hope four minutes later, as substitute Alex Iwobi struck a fantastic volley from the edge of the area after Chelsea failed to clear from a set-piece.
Any hope of an improbable comeback ended three minutes later. Hazard played a one-two with Giroud before firing home from close-range. Cech needed to pull off saves from both Hazard and Willian to keep the score respectable. Kepa also produced a good save from Lacazette, while youngster Joe Willock fired wide when put through on goal.
In the end, though, Chelsea and in particular Hazard were just too good for their London rivals. The Gunners failure to lift the trophy means that they will miss out on Champions League football once again next season.
A game of potential farewells
The Europa League final was one of potential farewell. Arsenal’s veteran goalkeeper Petr Cech played his final game as a professional footballer. Ironically, the Czech looks set to head back to former club Chelsea as sporting director.
For Chelsea, Belgium forward Eden Hazard all-but confirmed he would be leaving the Blues. There has been heavy speculation that the 28-year-old will join Real Madrid this summer. Los Blancos are red hot favourites to sign him this summer. If it was the Belgian final appearance, he has left the club on a high.
It could also have been Maurizio Sarri’s last game as Chelsea boss. There was talk in the press that the former Napoli boss could be sacked if they failed to win the final. However, the fact that Juventus have reportedly made him favourite for their vacant post increases the likelihood of Sarri leaving the London club.
Difficult summers ahead
Ironically, after what seems on paper a good season for Chelsea, they head into the summer under a big cloud. That cloud is that the Blues are banned from making transfers for two windows. That means the Blues cannot add players to their squad, despite probably losing their best player.
Arsenal faces a difficult summer because boss Unai Emery has the unenviable task of trying to rebuilding a squad that is ageing and simply not good enough for where the club wants to be. The Spaniard is likely to have a small transfer budget to revive the Gunners flagging fortunes, so there could be a tough summer ahead.
For now, though, Chelsea can celebrate winning yet another trophy, the first of a long managerial career for boss Sarri, who could well be managing elsewhere next season.
Will Maurizio Sarri leave Chelsea this summer?