Baku is Blue: Chelsea destroy Arsenal 4-1 in Baku to win the Europa League


Only 2,894 miles away from London, two of the capital’s biggest clubs went toe to toe in the Europa League final. It was victory for the west side of London, as Chelsea battered Arsenal 4-1 to take home the trophy and destroy their hopes of a Champions League return. A lot of the discussion prior to the game was about the location of the final and it’s no wonder why 6,000 tickets were returned by both clubs. No direct flights, thousands of pounds to travel and a place that is closer to Mumbai than it is to London, all for one game of football. Serious questions should have been put forward to UEFA before this final even went ahead. Despite this, the most controversial incident was the admission of Henrikh Mkhitaryan from the Arsenal side, as the players safety couldn’t be guaranteed. Football is a sport that supports the integration of different race’s, religion’s or nationality’s, and it’s just unfortunate that due to politics that a player had to miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime. And by the looks of yesterday evening, Arsenal could have really done with Mkhitaryan being in the squad.


Arsenal have been terrific throughout the Europa League, overturning a first leg deficit to Rennes, beating Napoli and then going onto destroy Valencia in the semi-final. Finally looking like the Arsenal of old, although very much like the Arsenal of recent years they always seem to short at fall at final hurdle. Whether that is the Premier League or the Europa League, they always manage to slip up. Chelsea on the other hand always manage to find a way. Many Chelsea fans have been screaming Sarri out from the terraces all season and the Italian manager has now made those fans eat their words. Not only has the former Napoli manager got them back into the Champions League, but he also brought them silverware. It was only fitting that these two giants of English football who hold such high standards of themselves would meet in the final, with the loser knowing there will be under serious pressure next year to deliver.


The game kicked off at 11pm in Baku in front of what appeared to be a half empty stadium. Throughout the first half, it was Arsenal who were looking more dangerous and the favourites to take home the Europa League. A poor punch by Chelsea keeper, Kepa, fell to the feet of Aubameyang, although the Premier League golden boot winner could only snatch his shot wide. Only 10 minutes later and it was the first controversial decision of the match. Arsenal striker, Lacazette, rounded the on-rushing Kepa who clumsy brought down the French striker. At first, it looked a blatant penalty, but after seeing the replay it was obvious that the French striker went down far too easy. The first half continued to be a tightly contested game, although towards the end of the first half Chelsea began to grow into the game. An effort towards goal by Giroud was a sign that Chelsea were beginning to step through the gears.


The relationship between Sarri and his players has come under a lot of scrutiny this season. But whatever the Chelsea manager said to his players at half-time must have resonated with them and Chelsea came like the team of 2009. It was the Europa League top goal scorer and former Arsenal striker, Olivier Giroud, who would continue his fine form in this year’s competition to break the heart his former side. The French striker stole a yard of space from his fellow countryman, Koscielny, to meet an Emerson cross to which he excellently headed the ball into the bottom corner. This goal sparked energy into the Chelsea side, and one would soon become two only 12 minutes later. A poor pass by Maitland-Niles was pounced on by Kovacic and the Croatian midfielder fed the ball over the top for Hazard to run onto. The Belgian superstar then played an excellent pass into the path of Pedro to extend Chelsea’s lead. All Arsenal’s excellent work in the first half had been undone by some careless defending, I suppose the story of there season. Hazard has been arguably one of the best players that Chelsea and the Premier League has ever seen. With the strong speculation that the Belgian star is set to leave this summer, it was only fitting that he would have his shining moment on one of Europe’s biggest stages. The 27-year-old would get an opportunity to extend Chelsea’s lead from the penalty spot, after Giroud was barged over in the box by Maitland-Niles following an excellent run from the man himself. There was no doubt as soon as Hazard stepped up. Chelsea’s number 10 casually slotted the ball into the bottom corner to engrave Chelsea’s name on the Europa League trophy. An Alex Iwobi strike gave Arsenal fans hope, although that hope was once again put to bed by Hazard as the Belgian got his second of the game and Chelsea’s fourth. The game finished 4-1 to Chelsea and what looked to be a close encounter in the first half ended up being an easy victory for the team in blue.


Chelsea may have got lucky in the semi-final against Frankfurt, but there was no luck needed in the final. Chelsea humiliated Arsenal and made it a long, miserable trip home for the Arsenal supporters. This defeat will put huge pressure on Emery next season as his team once again failed to make the Champions League. With Stan Kroenke reluctant to provide Emery with any sort of transfer budget, it looks as though it will be another difficult season for the Spanish manager. For Sarri, you can’t help but feel happy for him collecting his first trophy after 29 years in management. The role of Chelsea manager has notoriously been known to be one of the most difficult jobs in football. Abramovich has high expectations for each manager he hires, and it has been no different with Sarri. Congratulations to Sarri, the Chelsea players and all the supporters. For Emery, I wish him luck …… he’s going to need it.

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