Maurizio Sarri has won the first trophy of his management career, as Chelsea crushed Arsenal 4-1 in Baku to lift the Europa League.
It’s reported this could be Sarri’s last match on the Chelsea bench, as the former Napoli boss has been heavily linked with a move to Juventus or Roma this summer.
There was a big surprise in the starting XI, as Sarri chose to risk N’Golo Kante just days after a knee sprain in training, as he was already missing the likes of Antonio Rudiger and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Alexandre Lacazette seemed to go looking for contact with Kepa and went down too easily, so Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi and Massimiliano Irrati in the VAR booth waved play on.
Granit Xhaka’s screamer from distance clipped the top of the crossbar, while Italy international Emerson Palmieri was Chelsea’s most dangerous player, one shot deflected wide and another stinging the goalkeeper’s gloves.
Sarri’s men improved as the half wore on and Petr Cech got down very well for a one-handed save on Olivier Giroud’s angled drive.
It was Giroud who opened the scoring straight after the restart with a diving header at the base of the near post on a low cross from Emerson, who continued to run riot down the left, anticipating Laurent Koscielny.
Arsenal poured forward to get back into it, but this left spaces open and Eden Hazard rolled across for Pedro to take it first time from 12 yards, scuffing it slightly into the far bottom corner. He became the first player ever to score in the Finals of the Champions League, European Super Cup and Europa League.
Maitland-Niles, who was the only English player starting the game between two London clubs, clumsily bundled into the back of Giroud for a penalty, which Hazard coolly converted.
However, Arsenal restored some hope with a spectacular half-volley from substitute Iwobi, gathering a poor clearance on the edge of the box.
It didn’t last long, because Emerson was involved again by winning back the ball from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, as Hazard completed a give and go with Giroud to complete his brace, tearing the Gunners defence to shreds.
Hazard would’ve had a hat-trick if not for Cech’s save and the veteran goalkeeper also fingertipped a Willian effort round the post, while Cesar Azpilicueta skimmed the upright. Joe Willock curled just wide late on when springing the Chelsea offside trap.
This was a huge blow to Arsenal for two reasons, as not only did they miss out on the trophy, but they also failed to qualify for the Champions League and will be in the Europa League again next season.
Sarri was criticised from all quarters throughout the campaign, yet ends his debut Chelsea term with the Europa League, a third-place Premier League finish and losing the Carabao Cup Final to Manchester City on penalties.
Chelsea 4-1 Arsenal
Giroud 49 (C), Pedro 60 (C), Hazard pen 65, 72 (C), Iwobi 69 (A)
Chelsea: Kepa; Azpilicueta, Christensen, David Luiz, Emerson; Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic (Barkley 76); Pedro (Willian 71), Giroud, Hazard (Zappacosta 89)
Arsenal: Cech; Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal (Guendouzi 66); Maitland-Niles, Torreira (Iwobi 66), Xhaka, Kolasinac; Ozil (Willock 77); Aubameyang, Lacazette
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