Granit Xhaka

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Ronaldo hat trick puts Portugal in final

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It’s kinda what he does, you know, scoring huge goals?

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat trick as Portugal clinched a spot in the inaugural UEFA Nations League Final with a 3-1 defeat of Switzerland on Wednesday at the Estadio do Dragao.

[ MORE: Premier League VAR details ]

Ronaldo’s match-winner came in the 88th minute off a feed from Bernardo Silva, and then the Portuguese megastar cooked Manuel Akanji en route to a 90th minute insurance goal.

Ricardo Rodriguez scored a penalty kick for Switzerland’s lone goal.

Ronaldo’s performance came on the same day that the American lawsuit filed against Ronaldo for rape was moved to federal court.

The first goal was wonderful, a free kick sent through the wall after Ronaldo was fouled to win the opportunity, though it came after Bruno Fernandes was somehow not sent off for a sliding studs-up challenge. To be fair to Portugal, Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka could also have been sent off minutes later for a two-footed challenge.

The goals were the 86th, 87th, and 88th of his Portugal senior career.

And really the performance saved the story line, which would’ve been all about VAR after a penalty awarded to Portugal was never given thanks to a video review which nullified the foul in order to give a dodgy penalty to the Swiss.

That in itself had a measure of fairness, as the Swiss were the better team on the day. They just didn’t have Cristiano Ronaldo.

Chelsea win Europa League after Arsenal capitulate (video)

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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.

[ MORE: Sepp Blatter wants to sue Gianni Infantino ]

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.

[ TRANSFER RUMORS: Sadio Mane plays down Real Madrid links ]

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.

LIVE – Europa League final: Arsenal v. Chelsea

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The first of two European finals consisting of Premier League clubs begins as Chelsea take on Arsenal in the UEFA Europa League final.

Both teams will have to battle some rustiness, with Chelsea and Arsenal both having not played (official) matches since May 12. Chelsea played the New England Revolution two weeks ago in a match for charity in the U.S.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Europa League final ]

Despite picking up a knee injury in training and being given a 50/50 chance to play, Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has gone with N'Golo Kante in his midfield, alongside Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho. Olivier Giroud starts up top instead of Gonzalo Higuain, and Pedro takes the spot of Willian.

[READ: Europa League Final Preview: Arsenal v. Chelsea]

Interestingly, per Opta, Chelsea is the first team to not have a player from the club’s home nation in its starting lineup for a European final since Jose Mourinho and Inter Milan faced Bayern Munich in the 2010 Champions League final.

For Arsenal, manager Unai Emery has allowed Petr Cech to have a chance to go out a winner, starting him in the final game of the season. Emery also included Mesut Ozil in the squad, and he’ll likely combine with fellow attackers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette in an imposing Arsenal attack. Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka start in midfield as well.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Christensen, David Luiz, Emerson; Kovacic, Jorginho, Kante; Pedro, Giroud, Hazard.
Bench: Caballero, Alonso, Cahill, Zappacosta, Barkley, William, Higuain, Cumming, Ampadu, McEachran, Gallagher.

Arsenal: Cech; Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal; Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette.
Bench: Leno, Lichsteiner, Mustafi, Jenkinson, Elneny, Guendouzi, Willock, Saka, Iliev, Iwoke, Nketiah, Welbeck

Arsenal’s top-four dreams crushed in Brighton draw (video)

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  • Arsenal 3 points back of Spurs with inferior GD
  • Aubameyang scores 20th PL goal this season (9′)
  • Murray nets career goal 200 to draw level (61′)

Arsenal, much like Manchester United before them, couldn’t hold onto an early lead and ultimately dealt their own top-four dreams a fatal blow by drawing a bottom-four side on Sunday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

1-0 up on 17th-place Brighton & Hove Albion after nine minutes, Unai Emery‘s Gunners failed to put the game away with a second goal and let the Seagulls back into the game. As such, Arsenal (67 points) trail fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur by three points with just one game left to play. The problem for Arsenal: their goal differential (+20) is eight goals worse than that of Tottenham.

For all intents and purposes, they’re set for another season in the Europa League, unless the can win Europe’s “other” competition later this month.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan went inches from firing the Gunners into the lead after 73 seconds, but the Armenian’s shot from the edge of the penalty area smashed the front side of the post and squirted across the face of goal in agonizing fashion.

It didn’t take much longer for Arsenal to jump out in front, though. Nacho Monreal was tripped inside Brighton’s 18-yard box, which sent Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to the penalty spot where he bagged his 20th PL goal of the season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Shkodran Mustafi very nearly made it 2-0 with a diving header in the 36th minute, but Mathew Ryan leapt into action, and across his goal, to make a spectacular save at a full-stretch. Ryan made an even better stop to deny Aubameyang two minutes later. A cross came in front the left side and found Aubameyang near the penalty spot. He swept his left foot through the ball and sent it toward Ryan’s right-hand post, but the goalkeeper sprang to life once again and pushed the ball just around the post.

Brighton drew level hugely against the run of play. Granit Xhaka needlessly dragged down Solly March who had made a dangerous, but containable, run inside the box. Glenn Murray stepped up and converted to reach the 200-goal mark in his 15-year professional career.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Arsenal’s best chance to win it saw Aubameyang smash the ball just inches wide of the post in the 74th minute. With much of the left side of the goal at his mercy, the Gabonese goalscorer couldn’t keep the ball on frame when he leapt into the air struck a volley with great power.

Brighton had two chances to steal all three points in the 84th minute, but March’s header was saved by Bernd Leno at point-blank range, then Pascal Gross wasn’t able to put his follow-up effort on target. The near post was wide open and required just a bit of composure to touch the ball home.

Arsenal will visit Burnley on the final day of the season, next Sunday, while Spurs will host Everton.

Europa League Roundup Arsenal comeback to win, Chelsea draw at Eintracht

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Against the run of play in the first half, Arsenal showed a clinical touch that has been missing from the side in recent weeks.

Alexandre Lacazette did not throw away his shots, scoring a brace as Arsenal defeated Valencia, 3-1, to take a lead in their UEFA Europa League semifinal tie. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who set up Lacazette for his first, scored a goal in second half stoppage time to put Arsenal in a commanding position ahead of next week’s trip to the Mestalla.

Elsewhere, Chelsea used a goal from Pedro to come back and draw with Eintracht Frankfurt, 1-1 at the CommerzBank Arena in Frankfurt, Germany.

Lacazette’s pair of goals gave him four during this season’s Europa League, as Arsenal has seemed to prioritize European competition, especially at home, over the past couple of months.

In just the 11th minute at the Emirates Stadium, Mouctar Diakhaby got on the end of a Rodrigo header in the box and was quickest to react, scoring to put Valencia ahead and give the visitors a shock early lead.

To the Arsenal fans delight, the lead didn’t last long. In the 18th minute, Lacazette and Aubameyang combined to see Aubameyang played through, one-on-one with a Valencia defender. Aubameyang took Neto off his line before centering to Lacazette, who calmly finished into an open net.

Eight minutes later, Lacazette scored again as he headed home from a Granit Xhaka cross into the box, giving Arsenal the lead against the run of play.

The Gunners looked more likely to score in the second half, and Aubameyang finally found the net himself, volleying home off a Saed Kolasinac cross to give Arsenal some breathing room heading into the second leg.