Chelsea are champions of the Europa League after thumping Arsenal, who hit the self-destruct button ahead of an ultimately decisive 20-minute period to begin the second half, thus kissing goodbye their last remaining chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
The final score in Baku, Azerbaijan: 4-1.
Things didn’t start out all bad for Arsenal, though. The Gunners had a claim for a penalty kick denied in the 18th minute, when Alexandre Lacazette was played in behind the Chelsea backline. Arrizabalaga came rushing out and arrived just after Lacazette scooted the ball out of reach. The contact between goalkeeper and forward was minimal, if any at all, but that didn’t stop Lacazette from going to ground in dramatic fashion. With video review in play for the final, no second viewing was recommended.
Granit Xhaka was next to go agonizingly close for Arsenal, but the 20-yard screamer he struck in the 28th minute grazed the top of the crossbar and would have likely been covered and pushed over by Arrizabalaga had it been on target.
Emerson unleashed a well-hit strike right in the chest of Petr Cech, playing in the final game of his glorious career, in the 33rd minute, followed six minutes later by a decent chance for Olivier Giroud, which proved to be Chelsea’s best of the first half. The former Arsenal man forced Cech to make a full-stretch save with his left hand, though he never appeared to be scrambling to cover his far post.
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Chelsea needed just five second-half minutes to break the deadlock, though, as Giroud got his head on the end of Emerson’s cross at the near post and and redirected the ball, with power, past Cech and snuck it just inside the woodwork. The 32-year-old Frenchman opted for a largely subdued celebration against his club of five and a half seasons.
Pedro made it 2-0 exactly 10 minutes later, when Eden Hazard sprang to life for the first time in the game. The Belgian, perhaps playing his final game for the club, broke down the left side of Arsenal’s penalty area before cutting the ball back to Pedro near the penalty spot. The Spaniard swept the ball just inside the far post.
The meltdown was complete on 64 minutes, when Ainsley Maitland-Niles barged through the back of Giroud just inside the box. Hazard stepped to the penalty spot, sent Cech one direction and rolled the ball over the line the other way.
Alex Iwobi pulled the goal back for Arsenal — far and away the greatest moment of quality in the game (WATCH HERE) — just four minutes later, the Nigerian’s right-footed volley proved powerless in changing the course of the game, because Hazard struck again three minutes later.