Chelsea went through the wringer of emotions that is a penalty shootout in the semifinals of a European semifinal on Thursday, and came out the other side as Europa League finalists.
Eintracht Frankfurt matched Chelsea’s 1-1 away result from the first leg and held firm through extra time before bowing out to a pair of fine saves made by Kepa Arrizabalaga. It’ll be Chelsea versus Arsenal in Azerbaijan on May 29.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek put the Blues ahead with a pinpoint finish just before the half-hour mark. Eden Hazard played Loftus-Cheek into tons of space behind on the left side of the Frankfurt penalty area, but the 23-year-old still had lots to do. Loftus-Cheek, who’s finally getting a semi-extended run in the first team (six starts in the last eight games), shaped his body to go for the far post and tucked it just inside the frame to make it 1-0 on the day and 2-1 on aggregate.
The advantage lasted until halftime, but not much longer. Luka Jovic’s days as a Frankfurt player could be numbered (Real Madrid are rumored to have agreed a $67-million deal to bring him to Spain this summer), but he’s making the most of the biggest stage on which he’s played (so far). His equalizer in the 49th minute brought his tally of Europa League goals to double digits. The 21-year-old didn’t just finish the chance, but he helped to create it as well.
Extra time was more than a little nervy for Chelsea, who required a pair of goal-line clearances during the second period to force the shootout. David Luiz came first, followed not long after by Davide Zappacosta.
Cesar Azpilicueta was the first and only Chelsea player to see his spot kick saved, as Kevin Trapp made an incredible dive to his left and palmed the ball around the post. Then came back-to-back failed attempts for Frankfurt. Martin Hinteregger and Goncalo Paciencia were each denied by Arrizabalaga, who, it should be noted, was left in the game by manager Maurizio Sarri.
That set the stage for Hazard to play the hero’s part and set up another all-Premier League final in Europe, competing the 4-for-4 clean sweep with Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur set to face off for Champions League glory.