Petr Cech

Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Chelsea win Europa League after Arsenal capitulate (video)

Leave a comment

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Emery: We can achieve ‘two objectives’ in Europa League final

Getty Images
Leave a comment

According to Unai Emery, the Arsenal squad agreed upon two targets at the start of the 2018-2019 season. Qualify for the UEFA Champions League, preferably through finishing in the top four of the Premier League, and winning the Europa League.

On Wednesday, Arsenal has the chance to accomplish both.

[READ: Drama at Chelsea as Sarri storms out of practice]

“We can win one title and also play with the opportunity to go to the Champions League,” Emery said. “Above all we want to enjoy and play with all our good spirit and also I think this competition is improving a lot and over the last years big teams have played in the final. I hope that in the future Chelsea and Arsenal could be a final in the Champions League! We have a lot of very good players and some of the best players in the world, so it’s a very good moment for football in the world.”

Arsenal hasn’t won a European title since winning the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1994.

One of the big subplots heading into the match is whether Emery will stick with the retiring Petr Cech, who has been the goalkeeper for nearly the entire Europa League run so far, or regular No. 1 Bernd Leno. Emery wouldn’t reveal whether Cech would start, but did say he had something planned for him one way or another.

“I can speak about Petr Cech a lot, but above all he is a great man, a great professional, amazing in his behavior with us and it will be last match tomorrow because he decided to retire,” Emery said. “I want to do something important with him in the last moment of his career – and this has been my conversation with him, playing or not playing. We want to win for us.”

Europa League Final preview: Arsenal v. Chelsea

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
1 Comment

It’s Arsenal last chance at qualifying for the UEFA Champions League, and perhaps Maurizio Sarri‘s final opportunity to win a piece of silverware at Chelsea.

And, oh yeah, it’s a London Derby pitting rivals against each other in a controversial setting for a European final.

Chelsea and Arsenal meet Wednesday for the right to lift the UEFA Cup, squaring off in Baku, Azerbaijan at 3 p.m. ET.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

Arsenal will be without Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who elected to skip the match given the poor relations between Azerbaijan and his native Armenia. Chelsea may be missing N'Golo Kante, though the Blues have not ruled out the influential French midfielder.

The weight of the game is heavier for Arsenal, who will have to sell summer recruits on a year free of the Champions League if it fails to win in Baku.

We don’t know whether Unai Emery will tab Petr Cech as his starting goalkeeper before the Arsenal man leaves for the sporting director role at Chelsea.

Cech is still focused on the Gunners, and says not to be worried about Arsenal rising to the occasion.

“I feel that when Arsenal need to win, we win,” he said. “You go to Athens in the last Champions League group game needing to win 2-0 and you win 3-0. No matter where, we win, because that fire was right behind us as we had to really win. The pressure was what was pushing us.”

Both Sarri and Eden Hazard could be appearing at their final match for Chelsea, and the playmaking Real Madrid target feels this is a good chance to say goodbye from a top position.

“When you play for Chelsea at the start of the season, people think about which trophy we can have at the end of May, so this one is the important one. We lost the League Cup final, so at the end of the season this is the trophy we can go for. “I just want to win the trophy, that is it. It does not matter if I score or I do not score. If it is my last game, I hope to bring the trophy. … Would it be the perfect farewell? Yes.”

It’s the second Europa League Final for both teams, with Arsenal losing to Galatasaray in penalty kicks (2000) and Chelsea beating Benfica in 2013.

Stade Rennes beats Arsenal in first leg (video)

AP Photo / David Vincent
Leave a comment
  • Iwobi scores within three minutes
  • Sokratis sent off after second yellow
  • Bourigeaud scores terrific equalizer
  • Monreal own goal puts Rennes in front

Benjamin Bourigeaud and Ismaila Sarr scored and Arsenal conceded an own goal in a soft 3-1 loss to Stade Rennes at Rhazoan Park in the first leg of the Europa League’s Round of 16 on Thursday.

Alex Iwobi scored what could be a critical away goal should Arsenal regroup for Thursday’s second leg at the Emirates Stadium.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

It started so well, with Iwobi’s mishit cross skipping off the post and into the goal following a 1-2 with Nacho Monreal in the 4th minute.

Sokratis Papastathopoulos then saw yellow for a foul on the edge of the area, a precursor to his sending off under 10 minutes later.

Hatem Ben Arfa sent Ismaila Sarr toward Sokratis, and the Greek defender took down the young Senegalese striker for his second yellow.

That’s when Rennes struck, with Bourigeaud collecting a free kick rebound off the wall and sending a beauty past Petr Cech.

Beauty may be an understatement.

Monreal turned a Mehdi Zeffane cross into his own goal to give Rennes its first lead of the afternoon.

James Lea Siliki completed the scoring with a cross that Sarr turned beyond Cech with a strong header.