Olivier Giroud

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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.

Olivier Giroud signs new contract at Chelsea

AP
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Olivier Giroud‘s meaty French forehead will remain in the Premier League for at least another season.

Giroud, 32, was set to be out of contract this summer but he has signed a new deal at Chelsea which is a big relief given their FIFA transfer ban for the next two transfer windows.

Reacting to his contract extension, the 2018 World Cup winner was delighted to remain at Stamford Bridge.

“I am very happy to sign a new contract. I really wanted to stay at least one more year – I have felt a part of the team, the family, since the beginning and hopefully there will be more trophies to come,” Giroud said.

This is a good deal for everyone involved. Giroud had options from across Europe and the Premier League for next season, and he will still have those next summer, but it feels like he has been underused so far during his time at Chelsea as Alvaro Morata was their main man in 2017-18 despite his struggles up front.

Giroud has proven himself as a reliable striker at Chelsea following his move from Arsenal — where he scored 105 goals in 253 appearances and won three FA Cups across six seasons — in January 2018 and helped the Blues win the FA Cup in 2017-18.

He has mainly been used in the Europa League and cup competitions during the 2018-19 season and has scored 10 times in Chelsea’s run to the Europa League final (he is the leading scorer in the competition) against Arsenal next Wednesday.

Giroud has scored 17 times in 62 appearances since making the move across London, which is a decent return considering he has mostly been used as a substitute.

Gonzalo Higuain will likely not be returning for a second spell on loan at Chelsea from Juventus, so Giroud will get more minutes in the 2019-20 campaign and he’s shown he can slot into this Maurizio Sarri side seamlessly. His intelligent hold-up play has seen him develop a telepathic understanding with Eden Hazard and even if Hazard leaves, as expected, this summer, you can see Giroud striking up a similar rapport with Christian Pulisic next season.

Giroud is probably one of the most underrated strikers in the world game, as he is third all-time leading goalscorer for France, behind only Thierry Henry and Michel Platini. If you whip a dangerous cross into the box, he will get on the end of it and often finish it.

Barkley scores two as Chelsea tops New England

(AP Photo/Stew Milne
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Chelsea had little trouble dispatching the New England Revolution on Wednesday, but the match was secondary to its meaning.

The “Final Whistle on Hate” match saw Chelsea beat New England 3-0 at Gillette Stadium, but the focus for many was on the cause.

[ MORE: Derby County reaches playoff final ]

According to RevolutionSoccer.net, the match “acknowledges the ongoing rise of hate crimes around the world, with the Revolution and Chelsea working together to harness the power of sport and bring people together to tackle prejudice in all forms. In addition to $1 million donations from each club’s owners, all proceeds from the match are dedicated to initiatives combatting antisemitism and all hate crimes. The match’s beneficiaries include the World Jewish Congress, the Tree of Life synagogue, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Holocaust Educational Trust, with more still to be named.”

New England said on Twitter that it expected to raise $4 million from the evening.

Ross Barkley scored the first of his two goals in the third minute, and Olivier Giroud also bagged a goal as the Blues waltzed to their win.

Playing against MLS’ last place side, Chelsea used its final match before the Europa League Final to give its full roster a run.

Chelsea first half: Arrizabalaga, Zappacosta, Luiz, Christensen, Alonso, Barkley, Jorginho, Kovacic, Pedro, Giroud, Hazard.

Chelsea second half: Caballero, Zappacosta, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Emerson, Barkley, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek, Pedro, Higuain, Willian.

Chelsea second half subs: Gallagher, James, Chalobah.

Europa League preview: Arsenal, Chelsea nurse advantages

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Only one of four Europa League quarterfinals sees two clubs within a goal of each other after 90 minutes, and that’s heavily-favored Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat of Slavia Prague in the Czech Republic.

So while it’s possible that the Czech side rebounds to take care of the Blues at Stamford Bridge, it’s rational to say that tie might be the least in the balance.

[ UCL RECAPS: Man City-Spurs | Porto-Liverpool ]

Olivier Giroud says Chelsea will not be overlooking the Red and Whites, if only because of the challenge presented in the first leg.

“We were very impressed by their quality and intensity,” Giroud said, from Chelsea.com. “You get used to it in the Premier League, but honestly the first half was very tough. They put a lot of pressure on us, good pressing all over the pitch, so it was a very tough. … So we know what kind of team we will face tomorrow. They are not going to give up, and that’s why we are still cautious about this game.”

Arsenal leads its tie 2-0 after the London-hosted first leg but faces a Napoli team quite capable of putting up goals in bunches.

Napoli averages almost two goals a match in Serie A this season, but Arsenal defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos says the Gunners can get the job done in Italy.

“I know my team,” he said via Arsenal.com. “I know that we are a team who play very good football. Every game we fight for the best. From the beginning we’ve improved a lot. Now we’re in the last steps of the Premier League and Europa League, and we want to win as much as we can. This is one more final and we’ll be ready to take this.”

Eintracht Frankfurt bagged four away goals and a two-goal advantage in Portugal, leaving Benfica in likely need of a three goals or better win, while Valencia scored three times at Villarreal to bring a two-goal advantage home.

Kickoff for all four second legs is 3 p.m. ET

Chelsea bash Brighton and Hove Albion (video)

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  • Hazard, Loftus-Cheek score beauties
  • Loftus-Cheek adds assist
  • Hudson-Odoi lively, gets assist in first PL start

Ruben Loftus-Cheek had a goal and an assist as Chelsea clobbered Brighton and Hove Albion 3-0 on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge.

Callum Hudson-Odoi had an assist in his first Premier League start, while Olivier Giroud and Eden Hazard also scored.

Chelsea rises fifth with 63 points, level with fourth place Arsenal and a point back of Spurs. Manchester United has 61.

Brighton has 33 points, five points clear of the drop zone.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Hudson-Odoi was making his first start and saw his bid for an opener deflected over the bar.

He also nearly played set-up man, but a cross was headed high by Cesar Azpilicueta.

Giroud was the goal scorer, however, getting his 78th Premier League goal by popping a Hudson-Odoi-produced chance past Mat Ryan.

The 38th minute goal came on Chelsea’s 10th attempt to Brighton’s one.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

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Hazard buttressed Chelsea’s advantage at the hour mark, taking a pass from Loftus-Cheek and skewering Lewis Dunk before curling home.

Loftus-Cheek got a goal of his own moments later from almost the same distance as Hazard. Cruising.