Hazard stars as Chelsea hammer Arsenal in final
Europa League final, Baki Olympiya Stadionu – Chelsea 4 (Giroud 49’, Pedro 60’, Hazard P 65’, 72’) Arsenal 1 (Iwobi 69’)
A brace from Eden Hazard helped Chelsea to secure a comfortable 4-1 victory over Arsenal in the final of the Europa League in what is expected to be the Belgian’s final game for the Blues.
After a dour opening half Olivier Giroud opened the scoring against his former side, stooping low to direct an expert header past former Chelsea stalwart Petr Cech, playing his final game of his career.
Pedro doubled the lead with a fine finish after the assist from Hazard before the Belgian tucked home a penalty after Giroud was finished.
Pedro of Chelsea celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 2-0 during the UEFA Europa League Final between Chelsea and Arsenal at Baku Olimpiya Stadionu on May 29, 2019 in Baku, AzerbaijanGetty Images
Substitute Alex Iwobi’s fantastic strike briefly entertained ideas of a comeback but more delightful link-up from the Blues saw Hazard notch his second.
Chelsea win the competition for the second time, following their success in Hazard’s first season with the club in 2013.
Giroud had the best chance of the half, drilling a shot at goal from the edge of the box after good work from Jorginho, but Petr Cech - due to rejoin Chelsea as a technical director, was able to push it away.
Olivier Giroud of Chelsea shoots as Petr Cech of Arsenal dives to save during the UEFA Europa League Final between Chelsea and Arsenal at Baku Olimpiya Stadionu on May 29, 2019 in Baku, Azerbaijan.Getty Images
Alexandre Lacazette could have had a penalty after Kepa Arrizabalaga appeared to take him down, but both VAR and the referee were uncovinced.
In the second half, Olivier Giroud glanced an excellent header in at the near post against his former club, and 15 minutes later Pedro made it two. A third came for Eden Hazard - set to leave for Real Madrid in the summer - from the spot, before he made it four.
Alex Iwobi managed to grab a consolation, but Chelsea had evidently recovered from whatever spat saw Maurizio Sarri storm out of training on Tuesday night.
For Arsenal, it is another year of promising jam tomorrow, but never really delivering. For Chelsea, this is a game that could mark Hazard’s exit with triumph, and may even save Sarri’s job.
TALKING POINT - Is this Hazard’s final game?
He celebrated his goals with an air of finality. The players made a point of congratulating him, which suggests they know he is on his way. He is likely to join Real Madrid in the coming days, but it feels like he is only doing so because Chelsea have come to the limit of their ambition.
Chelsea's Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard celebrates after celebrates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Europa League final football match between Chelsea FC and Arsenal FC at the Baku Olympic Stadium in Baku, Azerbaijian, on May 29, 2019Getty Images
MAN OF THE MATCH - Olivier Giroud
Giroud has excelled since leaving Arsenal. The Frenchman has done brilliantly, and as limited as he can appear, he has managed to improve every side he has joined. The French national team is held together by his appearance, while this Chelsea side functions best with him instead of Gonzalo Higuain and Alvaro Morata. He was the breakthrough player today, and will be again.
Olivier Giroud of Chelsea celebrates scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Europa League Final between Chelsea and Arsenal at Baku Olimpiya Stadionu on May 29, 2019 in Baku, Azerbaijan.Getty Images
49’ - GOAL! Chelsea 1-0 Arsenal. Giroud scores - Emerson receives the ball in space on the left and sends in a low cross to the near post. Giroud has to reach around to find the force to head towards goal, and it creeps in at the near post.
64’ - PENALTY! Maitland-Niles runs into the back of Giroud as he was about to take a shot after Pedro slips him in, and that is clear cut.
65’ - GOAL! Chelsea 3-0 Arsenal. Hazard scores - The forward saunters up to the ball and lifts it past Cech, who dived to his left as Cech went right.
Eden Hazard of Chelsea scores his team's third goal from the penalty spot during the UEFA Europa League Final between Chelsea and Arsenal at Baku Olimpiya Stadionu on May 29, 2019 in Baku, Azerbaijan.Getty Images
69’ - GOAL! Chelsea 3-1 Arsenal. Iwobi scores - Chelsea fail to properly clear a ball into the box, and after some head tennis in the box, it comes out to Iwobi. He catches a volley brilliantly, and it sails into the top corner.
72’ - GOAL! Chelsea 4-1 Arsenal. Hazard scores - Hazard lays the ball off for Giroud, peeling off to the left, and he clips in a ball for Hazard's continued run as he chips in a shot past Cech.