Sat, May 11, 2019 - Page 16 News List

English sweep as Chelsea, Arsenal reach Europa final


Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette scores past Valencia goalkeeper Neto in their UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg on Thursday in Valencia, Spain.

Photo: Reuters

England became the first nation to provide two finalists in both European competitions in the same season, after Chelsea and Arsenal on Thursday made it to the UEFA Europa League title match.

Chelsea beat Eintracht Frankfurt 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out, after a second straight 1-1 draw between the teams in the semi-finals.

Eden Hazard converted the winning penalty, in what could be his final appearance at Stamford Bridge, after Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga saved two penalties.

Arsenal’s path to the final was more straightforward, beating Valencia 4-2 thanks to a hat-trick from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to complete a 7-3 win on aggregate.

It adds up to a season of domination for English clubs in Europe, with Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur reaching the final of the Champions League this week.

The Europa League final is to be staged in Baku, Azerbaijan, on May 29.

It is the first time since the 1972 UEFA Cup — when the Wolverhampton Wanderers took on Tottenham — that two English teams squared off for the title in any of this competition’s various guises.

Arsenal will likely need to win to get into next season’s Champions League, as they probably will not finish in the top four of the English Premier League.

Chelsea are already guaranteed a top-four finish heading into the final round of fixtures this weekend.

If this was Hazard’s last touch of a ball at Stamford Bridge in a Chelsea jersey, he made it count.

The Belgium forward has been strongly linked with a move to Real Madrid in the off-season after seven years at Chelsea.

“I don’t think about that,” Hazard said, when asked if it might have been his last home game for Chelsea. “I’m only thinking about winning something for this club and this squad. If it’s my last game, I will try to do everything for this club to win a trophy.”

Hazard set up Chelsea’s opening goal by Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the 28th minute with a perfectly weighted pass through Eintracht’s defense, but otherwise were well shackled by the German team.

Luka Jovic equalized with his 10th goal of the competition, tying for top scorer with Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud.

Eintracht gained an early advantage in the shoot-out when Cesar Azpilicueta had an attempt saved by Kevin Trapp, leaving the visitors 2-1 ahead, but Kepa starred by saving Martin Hinteregger’s penalty with his knees after staying in the middle of his goal, before pushing aside Goncalo Paciancia’s shot.

That presented Hazard with the chance to wrap up victory.

It was redemption for Kepa, who refused to follow the orders of manager Maurizio Sarri and be substituted at the end the English League Cup final against Manchester City in February. That match also ended up going to penalties and Chelsea lost.

“Wembley is in the past and I learned from it,” Kepa said. “I said I was sorry, but we always keep moving forward and today was another game.”

Unai Emery was a three-time winner of the Europa League with Sevilla. Now he has a chance of winning it again in his first season as Arsenal manager after becoming the first coach to get to the final of the competition four times.

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