In Depth

Arsenal and Chelsea reach Baku final: Europa League goals and reactions

England makes football history with four clubs in the two European finals

2018-19 Uefa Europa League 

Semi-final second leg results
  • Valencia 2 Arsenal 4 (3-7 on aggregate) 
  • Chelsea 1 Eintracht Frankfurt 1 (2-2 on aggregate, Chelsea win 4-3 on penalties)

Chelsea and Arsenal will meet in the final of the Uefa Europa League in Baku, Azerbaijan, on 29 May as they emulated Tottenham and Liverpool’s success in the Champions League.

The quartet of English clubs have created European football history by reaching the final of the continent’s two major competitions.

It’s never been done before but with Arsenal’s thumping victory at Valencia and Chelsea’s nail-biting penalty shoot-out win over Eintracht Frankfurt the Premier League can bask in the most triumphant week in its history.

There have only been two all-English finals before - Tottenham’s defeat of Wolves in the 1972 Uefa Cup and Manchester United’s victory over Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League - so the week beginning 26 May will be unprecedented for English football fans.

It also means that there will be an all-English Uefa Super Cup on 14 August when the winners of the two competitions face each other in Istanbul, Turkey.

Hat-trick hero

Arsenal were expected to face the tougher challenge in reaching their first Europa League final but despite conceding an early goal and weathering a torrid opening 20 minutes the Gunners eventually eased past Valencia.

That was thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whose hat-trick earned Arsenal a 4-2 win in Spain and a 7-3 aggregate victory.

Having failed to qualify for the Champions League by dint of finishing in the top four of the Premier League, victory against Chelsea on 29 May would ensure their place in next season’s showpiece tournament.

It would also propel Arsenal head coach Unai Emery into the record books as the only man to win four Europa League crowns. He won three successive Europa League titles - 2014, 2015 and 2016 - when he was manager of Sevilla.

No comeback kings

In the semi-final second leg in Spain Arsenal looked impressive in ensuring that comebacks are best left to English clubs.

Trailing 3-1 from the first leg, Valencia got an early goal from Kevin Gameiro and their crowd roared them on in the expectation of more to follow. But a moment of brilliance from Aubameyang, sending a right-foot volley into the Valencia net on 17 minutes, stunned the home support.

When the impressive Alexandre Lacazette put Arsenal ahead five minutes after the break it was virtually game over. Valencia levelled on the night through Gameiro but Aubameyang underlined the gulf in class between the two sides with two goals in the final quarter.

Blues are spot on 

Chelsea were expected to ease into the final after holding Frankfurt to a 1-1 draw last week in Germany.

They took the lead on 28 minutes through Ruben Loftus-Cheek but the visitors levelled four minutes after the break when Luka Jovic found the Chelsea net.

Extra-time couldn’t produce a goal so the tie went to penalties. Blues goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga made two saves in the shoot-out and Eden Hazard hit the winning spot-kick.

Asked to explain the Premier League’s domination of European competition, Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri pointed to the intensity of the domestic season.

“Here the level is very high. Very high,” he said. “At this moment, the Premier League is the best championship in Europe and, as a consequence, in the world.”

Last match at the Bridge?

For Hazard his winning penalty was a fitting moment on what could be his final match for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The Belgian, who is expected to join Real Madrid this summer, said: “I don’t think about that [his final game at the Bridge]. I’m only thinking about winning something for this club and this squad.

“If it’s my last game I will try to do everything for this club to win a trophy. In my mind I don’t know yet [if it’s his last game].”

What a finale for Cech

The occasion in Baku will have added significance for veteran Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech, who retires at the end of this season after a long and illustrious career.

The 36-year-old arrived at the Emirates from Chelsea in 2015 and he admitted it will be a dream to bow out against the Blues.

“It will be remarkable to end my career against Chelsea,” said Cech, who has lost his Premier League place this season to Bernd Leno.

“The last dream was to play this European final and it has come true. Now the dream is to win the trophy.”

Reactions as Arsenal and Chelsea reach the final

Unai Emery, Arsenal head coach: “I am very proud of the players and the supporters. The players did all they could and we can be proud of the whole club. It is very difficult to play in finals - we took our opportunity today which we are happy about. We knew we had to be calm after they scored and we needed to control our emotions. It is very difficult to score four goals against this team because they are very organised. It gave us confidence to score quickly, we know our strikers are taking chances.” 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal striker: “We have learned from last season and this year we didn’t make the same mistakes. Now we are through to the final.”

Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal striker: “We reacted well to going behind and we knew we had to score a minimum of one goal. Auba was unbelievable tonight with an incredible hat-trick, so thanks to him. We have played badly in Premier League during the last month and now we have to use this opportunity. We want to play in the Champions League next season and we want the trophy.”

Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea manager: “I think we played a very good first half and then we got into trouble after the break. We conceded a goal in ten minutes of panic. We were better in the last part of the match but we were tired in extra time and it was difficult. We started with three injuries and picked up two more during the match after we lost Andreas Christensen and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, so it wasn’t easy but we are now in the final.”

Kepa Arrizabalaga, Chelsea goalkeeper: “Penalties are down to luck. Today we won and in the Carabao Cup final we lost, but this is football. Today was really good and we played against a very difficult team and we are very happy. We always prepare for the penalty shooters before each game and today we are lucky. Our season was a little bit difficult but we have reached two finals and we have qualified for the Champions League so I think it’s a good season. Now we will have a strong London derby with Arsenal in Baku.”

Eden Hazard, Chelsea forward: “It was hard but when you start the game you think you can reach the final, especially when you draw the first game away. We played a great game but the semi-final is not so easy. We are happy and we will go to Baku to try to win the trophy. We are happy but it’s not finished. We have another game to play against Arsenal. We need to go there and play with quality and win the game.”

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