CHELSEA, ARSENAL REACH EUROPA LEAGUE FINAL
On a night of breath-taking action in both England and Spain, London clubs Chelsea and Arsenal reached the final of Europe’s second tier competition, the Europa League after defeating Eintracht Frankfurt and Valencia respectively.
The Blues needed penalties to get past their German opponents after playing out a 1-1 draw in regulation and extra-time. Eden Hazard scored the decisive spot-kick that sent Chelsea through to the final where they will face London rivals Arsenal in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea took an away goal from the first leg into the second leg at Stamford Bridge after playing out a 1-1 draw in Germany last week. They got off to a great start thanks to Rueben Loftus-Cheek who scored 28minutes to put the hosts 2-1 up on aggregate but the visitors responded four minutes after the break through striker Luka Jovic, levelling the tie at 2-2.
The rest of the game flowed and it took a goal-line clearance from David Luiz deep into extra-time to send the game to penalties as Frankfurt look to stun the hosts. Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta looked to have blown it for Chelsea when he missed his side’s second to give Frankfurt- who scored their first three spot-kicks- the advantage but back to back misses from Hinteregger and Paciencia for Frankfurt swung the tie back the way of the London side who scored all their remaining kicks, with Hazard scoring the all important fifth.
In the other semi-final in far away Spain between Valencia and Arsenal, Unai Emery’s men produced another sensational performance to reach the final, defeating Valencia 4-2 at the Estadio Mestalla to comfortably win the tie 7-3 on aggregate.
The Gunners who led 3-1 from the first leg fell behind only after 11minutes when Frenchman Kevin Gameiro scored for Valencia, alas, six minutes later Pierre Emerick Aubameyang levelled on the night. Another Frenchman Alexander Lacazette scored this time for the visitors to put them up 2-1 10 minutes into the second half but the lead only lasted eight minutes as Gameiro grabbed his brace on the night to draw Valencia level, though they trailed heavily on aggregate. With the tie looking beyond reach for the Spanish team, Aubameyang added two more goals to complete his hat-trick and also seal a memorable win for the Arsenal as they reached the final thanks to a comfortable 7-3 aggregate win.
The win sees Arsenal reach their first European final since 2006 when they lost 2-1 to Barcelona in the champions league final in Paris.
The final will be played on Wednesday May 28th in Baku, Azerbaijan.