Arsenal kept their last remaining shot at qualifying for next season’s UEFA Champions League alive by finishing off Valencia in the second leg of the Europa League semifinals on Thursday.
Arsenal will face Chelsea, who survived a penalty shootout with Eintracht Frankfurt, in the final in Azerbaijan on May 29.
Valencia jumped out to an early lead on the day when Kevin Gameiro tapped home an empty-netter in the 11th minute, bringing the aggregate score to a somewhat nervy 3-2, but Unai Emery‘s side responded emphatically. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang restored the two-goal advantage just six minutes later and ended the game with a hat trick (17th, 69th and 88th minutes).
Gameiro scored a second on the day, but it didn’t come until the 58th minute, eight minutes after Alexandre Lacazette had extended the Gunners’ aggregate lead to 5-2 and secured the tie-breaking second away goal.
Aubameyang’s third goal of the day made it 4-2 (7-3 on aggregate) and meant Arsenal are headed to their first European final since the 2005-06 season, when they were beaten Barcelona in the Champions League.
This time around, lifting a trophy would certainly be a welcome achievement for Emery in his first season at the Emirates Stadium, but more importantly it would put the club back amongst the riches of Europe’s premier competition. Otherwise, it’ll be a third straight season without UCL.