England’s Arsenal and Chelsea have both progressed to the finals of the Europa League following victories against Valencia and Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday. Both the London clubs displayed top performances throughout the campaign to seal the place in the final showdown which will take place at Baku, capital of Azerbaijan.
While Arsenal defeated Valencia in a convincing manner with a scoreline of 7-3 in aggregate over two legs, Chelsea were held to one-all draws in both legs and their match against Frankfurt stretched till penalties for the final outcome.
Goals Galore at Arsenal vs Valencia match:
Valencia, buoyed by the enthusiasm of their supporters, started the contest on the front foot, apparently confident of overcoming their 1-3 loss in the first leg in London.
Guedes and Rodrigo combined to get the ball to Kevin Gameiro at the far post and the Frenchman nudged it across the goal line to narrow the deficit to 2-3.
The Mestalla erupted and the home side cranked up the intensity. Rodrigo garnered a pair of chances in the space of three minutes, only to hit Gameiro the first time and send the second shot high.
The Spanish squad continued to press, but the failure of the Valencia back line to deal with a long ball from Arsenal keeper Petr Cech in the 17th minute led to Aubameyang’s first goal.
Conceding took the wind out of Valencia’s sails and the Gunners began to enjoy more possession. Yet, Lacazette fired wide when he had an opportunity to settle the contest in the 38th minute and the teams went to the dressing rooms with the score stuck at 1-1 (4-2).
Valencia sought to recapture the initiative after the re-start, but instead fell further behind with Lacazette’s goal in the 50th minute.
The hosts battled on, however, and Gameiro got his second of the night ahead of the hour mark to make it 2-2 (5-3), lifting spirits at the Mestalla.
Arsenal, not known for defending, did enough to prevent Valencia from finding a groove and a Maitland-Niles charge culminated in a cross to the near post where Aubameyang was waiting to strike home.
His team down 3-2 (6-3), Valencia coach Marcelino Garcia Toral pulled Rodrigo and Guedes to rest them for the weekend LaLiga contest against Alaves.
Aubameyang completed the hat-trick with a goal in the 88th minute on the counter. With the result, Arsenal manager Unai Emery can dream of adding to the three Europa League titles he won as coach of Sevilla.
Drama at Chelsea vs Eintracht Frankfurt:
The sides were deadlocked 2-2 after playing more than 210 minutes of football across the two legs, leaving the contest to be settled on penalty kicks.
Blues keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga did his part, making two stops, before Eden Hazard — playing what may have been his last match at Stamford Bridge in a Chelsea shirt — stepped to the line and converted for the decisive 4-3, reports Efe news.
Chelsea were favoured after securing a 1-1 draw in the first leg of Commerzbank Arena with Hazard on the bench.
Earlier, Blues coach Maurizio Sarri decided to start the Belgian international, who is rumoured to be bound for Real Madrid over the summer.
And Hazard, who leads the Premier League this season with 15 assists, did not disappoint, delivering the crucial pass for Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s goal in the 28th minute to put the hosts ahead 2-1 overall.
Olivier Giroud shot the ball into Frankfurt keeper Kevin Trapp on Chelsea’s best chance before the break.
Four minutes into the second half, Frankfurt’s Luka Jovic showed why many of Europe’s big clubs are interested in him.
The 21-year-old Serb worked a give-and-go with Gacinovic, got behind Chelsea defender David Luiz and tricked Kepa into leaning left before blasting his shot into the undefended side of the net.
The 1-1 held up through the remainder of regulation and the match went to extra time, which saw chances for both teams.
Chelsea’s Davide Zappacosta forced a fine stop by Trapp and Cesar Azpilicueta scored on the ensuing corner, but the goal was disallowed for a foul against the keeper.
In the penalty round, Jovic and Haller connected for Frankfurt and Barkely for Chelsea, but Trapp made a tremendous save to deny Azpilicueta.
De Guzman and the Blues’ Jorginho converted before Martin Hinteregger misfired.
David Luiz scored and Kepa thwarted Goncalo Paciencia to leave the tally 3-3 after five rounds to set the table for Hazard’s winner.
(With IANS Inputs)