Arsenal’s collapse at the business end of the Premier League season meant that success for Unai Emery’s side solely depended on lifting the Europa League and as a result, securing a ticket to next season’s Champions League.
The Gunners travelled to Unai Emery’s old club Valencia defending a 3-1 semi-final first leg lead given to them by star strikers Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the Emirates last week.
The cauldron of the Mestalla didn’t intimidate the Gunners. Aubameyang was at it again as he scored a hat-trick and his strike partner Lacazette added the other as Arsenal won 4-2 and stormed into the finals, 7-3 on aggregate. Kevin Gameiro scored a brace in a losing cause.
Arsenal’s crosstown rivals Chelsea didn’t have it all their way as they had to fight till the end. Maurizio Sarri’s men had drawn the first leg at Eintracht Frankfurt’s Commerzbank Arena.
They were without the services of N’Golo Kante, who was ruled out with a hamstring problem. Frankfurt made a bright start to the contest but lost their way after Ruben Loftus-Cheek gave the Blues a 28th minute lead with a measured finish.
The visitors knew that they needed to press the issue in the second half to keep their Europa League dream alive. After regrouping themselves at the break, the Bundesliga outfit did just that.
Frankfurt’s star man Luka Jovic drew them level in the 49th minute after combining wonderfully with his Serbian international teammate, Mijat Gacinovic.
Chelsea started to dominate the match post that instance, while Frankfurt looked to hit them on counters. The noise at Stamford Bridge was deafening as the match went into extra time.
In the extra time, substitute Sebastien Haller saw two chances cleared off the line, first by David Luiz and then Davide Zappacosta.
Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta then wheeled away in celebration thinking he had scored but referee Ovidiu Hategan deemed the defender to have illegally knocked the ball out of goalkeeper Kevin Trapp's hands.
Trapp then denied Azpilicueta in the subsequent penalty shoot-out, but Kepa Arrizabalaga came to his Spanish compatriot's rescue and Eden Hazard booked Chelsea’s place in their second Europa League final in seven seasons, with the winning spot kick.
Chelsea will be up against Arsenal in the Europa showpiece in Baku, Azerbaijan. However, they will have to overcome the might of Unai Emery.
Arsenal’s Spanish manager has seen and done it all before, not once, not twice but thrice with Sevilla. This will be the second time when two English clubs will face off against each other in the Europa League final after 1972 when Tottenham Hotspur had got the better off Wolverhampton Wanderers.
For the very first time in European football, four clubs from the same country have reached the finals of both club competitions. This might just be the start of a prolonged period of English dominance.
(Featured Image: Twitter)
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Studied at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Delhi. Lives and breathes Football, the beautiful game.