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Dublin: 5°C Sunday 28 February 2021


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Good evening everybody, you’re very welcome along to our minute-by-minute coverage of this year’s Europa League final between Chelsea and Arsenal.

Baku is the venue for tonight’s game, approximately 4,621km away from London where both these Premier League rivals reside.

There has been a whole lot of controversy surrounding the location for this year’s final. Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not be playing and many supporters from both teams have been put off from travelling, due to the incredible cost required to make it out to Azerbaijan.

Unfortunately for everyone concerned, these issues have overshadowed what on paper should be a cracking affair, a game which could well define both Chelsea and Arsenal’s seasons and their summer ahead too.

Chelsea v Arsenal - UEFA Europa League - Final - Olympic Stadium Source: Steven Paston

Unai Emery and Maurizio Sarri have endured up-and-down debut campaigns in the Premier League. Multiple times throughout this season the Chelsea boss has come under significant pressure to leave his post, despite securing a top four finish and two cup final appearances.

Emery, meanwhile, might just have a bit more riding on tonight’s game from his own perspective. After failing to deliver a top four finish this season, Arsenal need to win tonight in order to qualify for the Champions League.

The Spaniard has made this competition his own this decade, with Emery winning the Europa League on three occasions (2014, 2015, 2016) with Seville.

There is a lot at stake in Baku for both teams and both managers, plus there’s a shiny trophy up for grabs too, so there’s that. Stick with us, kick-off is coming up in just over an hour’s time at 8.00pm.

Let’s get started with tonight’s team news…

Maurizio Sarri has made two changes from his side’s dramatic second-leg penalty shoot-out victory against Eintracht Frankfurt in the semi-finals at Stamford Bridge at the start of the month.

N’Golo Kante has been deemed fit to start. He takes the place of Ruben Loftus-Cheek in midfield, lining up alongside Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho.

Up front there is one change, Willian coming in for Pedro. The Brazilian will feature alongside Eden Hazard and Oliver Giroud as Sarri opts for a 4-3-3.

Chelsea v Arsenal - UEFA Europa League - Final - Olympic Stadium Source: Steven Paston

Unai Emery has opted for no changes from Arsenal’s comprehensive second-leg defeat of Valencia at the Mestalla three weeks ago.

Lining out against his old club for his final ever game in professional football, Petr Cech is between the sticks behind a back three of Nacho Monreal, Laurent Koscielny and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

It’s a midfield five of Sead Kolasinac, Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira and Ainsley Maitland-Niles, with Mesut Ozil in the playmaker role behind that deadly duo of Alexandre Lacazette and Perre-Emerick Aubameyang.

CHELSEA: Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Luiz, Emerson, Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic, Pedro, Giroud, Hazard.

Substitutes: Caballero, Cumming, Alonso, Barkley, Higuain, Zappacosta, Willian.

ARSENAL: Cech, Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal, Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Kolasinac, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette.

Substitutes: Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Jenkinson, Elneny, Guendouzi, Willock, Saka.

Right, just about 45 minutes to go before action gets underway in Baku. How do you see tonight’s game unfolding? Let us know below!

Poll Results:

Arsenal win (196)
Chelsea win (128)

Brian Kerr has had his say on the absence of Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

What the managers have said…

Maurizio Sarri: “I don’t agree we don’t have pressure. We are Chelsea and fight for every trophy. Obviously we did the job of getting into the Champions League.

“The other target is to win this trophy. We had the final on our mind. It is a big game and we want to win trophies.”

Unai Emery: “[Qualifying for the Champions League] that is our objective. We knew it was going to be difficult.

Azerbaijan Soccer Europa League Final Source: Luca Bruno

“We have the possibility to achieve that. Our possibility is to win a title and play in the Champions League next year.

“Now I can say the same as when we started. It’s going to be difficult. We can be, first, happy for this challenge tomorrow and with a very big responsibility to do all to achieve that.”

It might be Europe’s second-tier competition, but the Uefa Cup/Europa League is an absolutely stunning trophy, it has to be said. Plenty of space to fill it with champagne. The players are making their way onto the pitch now. Not long to go!

Azerbaijan Soccer Europa League Final Source: Luca Bruno

Flag 1Mins

KICK-OFF: We’re underway at the Olympic Stadium in Baku for the first half!


Plenty of early possession from Chelsea, who stroke the ball left and right across midfield with everyone trying to get an early touch to settle their nerves. David Luiz ventures forward and pings an inviting diagonal ball towards the box, but Petr Cech reads it early and plucks the ball from the air.


A very strange atmosphere, it has to be said. There aren’t many travelling supporters here tonight, with locals in Baku snapping up tickets and making up the bulk of the crowd inside the Olympic Stadium. A massive running track doesn’t help things either, with the fans inside the ground a good bit away from the action on the pitch.

Chelsea v Arsenal - UEFA Europa League - Final - Olympic Stadium Source: Bradley Collyer


Eden Hazard attempts a flashy spin on the ball, but runs into Ainsley Maitland-Niles and draws the foul. Both sides just sussing one another out at the moment, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette quite isolated so far as Arsenal try and get the ball for a first proper spell of possession.


Now then, Emery’s men finally retain the ball. A neat passage of combination play sees Lacazette drop deep trying to look up and pick out a team-mate darting forward with his back to goal. But David Luiz is breathing down the French striker’s neck and provides the foul to stop any attack from materialising. 


A lot of cynical fouls inside the opening eight or nine minutes here. It’s very stop-start so far as defenders barge into attackers time and time again. Tricky conditions for players like Hazard, Pedro, Özil and Aubameyang to strut their stuff.

Chelsea v Arsenal - UEFA Europa League - Final - Olympic Stadium Source: Steven Paston


Chance! A first sight at goal for either side as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang flashes a right-footed effort wide of the post. It all came about thanks to Ainsley Maitland-Niles’s overlapping run on the right. Kepa failed to properly punch clear his cross, but Aubameyang couldn’t capitalise with the goal at his mercy.


Chelsea respond down the other end as Hazard dashes through on the edge of the box. He barges Lucas Torreira and it looks like it might be a free for Chelsea right on the edge of the box… but Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi waves play on.


Approaching the fifteen minute mark now and I suppose the best word to describe this final so far would be cagey. A number of people have suggested this has the feeling of a mid-summer friendly, and to be fair they might have a point. This game has failed to hit its stride yet, but there’s plenty time to go yet.

Chelsea v Arsenal - UEFA Europa League - Final - Olympic Stadium Source: PA Wire/PA Images


Lacazette tries to pick out his strike partner Aubameyang with a clever through ball, but the pass is slightly behind him. Very good idea from Lacazette there, but Chelsea survive. A bit more pace about the game now.


Close yet again for Arsenal. Sead Kolasinac bombs forward on the right and edges into the box, but his cross is deflected out wide for a corner kick. Emery’s men pushing and probing at the moment, knocking on the door and lots of other clichés for good attacking play.


Big, big shouts for an Arsenal penalty, but referee Rocchi doesn’t give it. Lacazette was brought down inside the area by Kepa after trying to round the goalkeeper, but the referee deems it wasn’t a foul. No VAR in the Europa League, remember.


Important defensive header from David Luiz there. Granit Xhaka’s in-swinging corner was aimed at Nacho Monreal, but the Brazilian defender managed to get there first and provide the clearance. Good defending.


Very interesting stat — if Arsenal were to win tonight it would be Unai Emery’s fifth European final victory. That would place him just one behind former Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni, who has five European final wins to his name.


Aubameyang with another header, but he mis-times his jump and Kepa comes to gather the ball in the air. Chelsea counter-attack swiftly down the other end. N’Golo Kante picks out Olivier Giroud at the front post, but the French striker makes a right meal of the chance and the ball dribbles wide harmlessly.


Off the crossbar! Granit Xhaka sure knows how to hit them. The Switzerland international sees time and space open up in front of him and lashes an almighty effort off his right boot. But his shot just skims the top of the crossbar and over. Mightily close.


More good work from Chelsea. Eden Hazard is right in the thick of it, taking the ball on the edge of the area before spinning and picking out Emerson, who joined the attack from right back. He sends a cross towards the middle of the box, but again it’s blocked away for a corner.


Cesar Azpilicueta is the next to venture forward. He sees a chance on the edge of the box and slams a low effort aimed towards Cech’s bottom corner, but again there’s an Arsenal body in the way just when it was needed. Sokratis with the block this time.


Six attempts shared between the sides now. After a fairly tame opening 20 minutes in Baku, this game has really come to life. Very open and expansive game out there. I really don”t want to jinx it, but a goal feels imminent.


Close! Chelsea come agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock once again. Another fine attacking move sees Emerson free inside the box close to goal. He smashes a powerful left-footed effort on target, but Cech is equal to it and palms the ball to safety.

Chelsea v Arsenal - UEFA Europa League - Final - Olympic Stadium Source: Bradley Collyer


This is end-to-end stuff now! Sead Kolasinac fizzes another dangerous, curling cross into the mixer after finding space down the right not for the first time this evening. But Kepa races from his line and punches clear at the last second.


All of a sudden there are only eight minute left in the first half. The last half an hour has sped by, but still no goals and no breakthrough. Very even affair, it has to be said, with both sets of full-backs getting a lot of success bombing forward. Emerson and Kolasinac in particular are instrumental.


Save! A brilliant, brilliant save from Petr Cech keeps Arsenal on level terms. Oliver Giroud lets fly on his left peg with a powerful effort along the ground after a clever pass from Mateo Kovacic. But Cech manages to get himself down good and early and claws the ball away. Fine goalkeeping.


Five minutes to go before the break. Sarri’s men come forward again, but a handful of corners don’t cause any real trouble. Hazard dashes forward a few moments later, but the linesman raises his flag for offside.


We’re halfway there. Well, not accounting for extra-time. After a fairly limp opening 20 minutes or so this Europa League final really kicked into gear and it’s been a pretty exciting, end-to-end affair ever since.

No goals to speak of, but by God we’ve come close time and time again. A long-range effort from Granit Xhaka skimmed the crossbar, while a brilliant save from Petr Cech in his final professional game denied Oliver Giroud from close range.

There was a big shout for an Arsenal penalty after Alexandre Lacazette was brought down inside the box by Kepa. But Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi waved play on and we’re still waiting for the deadlock to be broken.

More action to come shortly!

Chance right from the get-go for Arsenal. Straight from tip-off Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang races clear down the left wing. He provides a cross which turns into a shot bobbling towards Petr Cech’s near post. The veteran shot-stopper wasn’t expecting it initially, but makes his way over and smoothers the ball.

Chelsea v Arsenal - UEFA Europa League - Final - Olympic Stadium Source: Bradley Collyer


It’s just gone midnight in Baku, with a strange kick-off time of 11pm local time in Azerbaijan. If the scoreline remains as is, it could be a very late night for a all concerned.


Oliver Giroud passes up yet another golden opportunity. He peels away inside the box and slams another left-footed effort towards goal, but Laurent Koscielny is on hand to block the opportunity clear. There were some shouts for a Chelsea penalty in the midst of all that, with Eden Hazard brought to the floor.



Oh, what a goal! Oliver Giroud has passed up some decent chances so far tonight, but makes amends with a phenomenal header at the front post. He peels away from Koscielny yet again, and meets Emerson’s curled cross with a bullet of a header which flies into Petr Cech’s bottom corner. Precise and deadly.


It’s Giroud’s 11th goal in this season’s Europa League and undoubtedly the most important of them all. Credit where it’s due, that was an absolutely brilliant header from the French striker. There was a tiny pocket of Petr Cech’s goal unguarded and Giroud zipped the ball towards it perfectly.

Chelsea very much on top now, gunning for a second goal to make their lead absolutely concrete. Eden Hazard is demanding the ball and flying forward at every given opportunity. He has been their driving force tonight in attack.

Chelsea v Arsenal - UEFA Europa League - Final - Olympic Stadium Source: PA Wire/PA Images


Will we see a response from Arsenal here? Emery’s men are venturing forward in search of an equaliser. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette have been absolutely deadly in front of goal together this season, but have yet to make their mark on this Europa League final just yet.


Arsenal pressing forward now. Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Lucas Torreira help drive the Gunners forward into the box, but the attack breaks down. Torreira did have a strike from the edge of the box, but it was blocked down bravely by N’Golo Kante throwing himself in the way.



Chelsea have a second! Mateo Kovacic picks out Eden Hazard inside the box, the Belgian sends a low cross towards Pedro and the Spaniard provides the killer touch with a deft right-footed finish which veers off into Cech’s bottom corner. Sarri’s men two the good now with half an hour remaining. 


A quality finish from Pedro there, a man who is more than accustomed to playing in European finals. He won the Champions League with Barcelona in 2009, 2011 and 2015 and won a Euros in 2012 with Spain too. European royalty. 


A massive half an hour to go for Arsenal here. Unai Emery has never lost a Europa League final before, but lose tonight and his side will be back in this competition again next season. Champions League football is slipping from their grasp in Baku.



Chelsea will have the chance to make it 3-0 from the spot as Olivier Giroud goes down inside the box after coming into contact with Ainsley Maitland-Niles from behind. Unai Emery looks on aghast.



It’s there! The man for the big occasion, possibly playing his last ever game in Chelsea colours, Eden Hazard makes no mistake and slots the ball into the back of the Arsenal net. A slow and confident run-up, before the Belgian sends Cech the wrong way to make it 3-0 and potentially put this game to bed.


It’s just gone from bad to worse for Arsenal ever since the interval. Two goals from Pedro and Eden Hazard puts Chelsea firmly in the ascendency and, barring a miraculously comeback here, on their way to the Europa League crown for 2019.



Hello, hello. Here we go. Arsenal cut the deficit to two with a blinding effort from the right boot of Alex Iwobi. He’s only on the pitch a handful of minutes after replacing Lucas Torreira, but Iwobi has made an immediate impact with a belter of a volley which sails past Kepa from the edge of the box. Is the comeback on?


That was a superb, superb finish from Iwobi make no doubt about it. The ball fell invitingly to him on the edge of the box, but his volley was executed inch-perfect past Kepa. It gives Arsenal a glimmer of hope with 20 minutes to go.



Do not adjust your set, the goals just keep on coming in Baku! Eden Hazard dashes what little speck of hope Arsenal had with that Iwobi goal by grabbing Chelsea’s fourth and his second of the night. It’s a lightning-quick counter, Hazard and Oliver Giroud play a neat one-two inside the box and the electric Belgian toe-pokes the ball past Cech. Wow.


Two goals and one assist for Eden Hazard tonight. If this is to be his last appearance for Chelsea tonight, well, you really couldn’t ask for a better performance. In the first half he was the driving force behind Chelsea’s attacks and in the second half he has just gone to another level completely. Undoubtedly the difference between the sides tonight.


A pair of substitutions by Maurizio Sarri for the final period here. Goalscorer Pedro is replaced by Willian, while Ross Barkley comes on in place of Mateo Kovacic, who could also be making his final appearance in blue as his loan spell from Real Madrid comes to an end.

Unai Emery also decides to make a change, his third of the night. Mesut Özil comes off, replaced by 19-year-old Joe Willock, who prepares to make his third appearance in the Europa League this season.

Chelsea v Arsenal - UEFA Europa League - Final - Olympic Stadium Source: Bradley Collyer


The game has gone a little flat since Hazard’s second goal, as Arsenal sense that perhaps this game is beyond them. Liverpool and Tottenham both showed us that it’s not over until it’s over and that miracles are possible. But the Gunners look beaten out there at the moment with 13 minutes to go.


Petr Cech is called into action, forced into another fine stop. Only on the pitch a couple of minutes Willian provides a powerful shot on target, but his old Chelsea team-mate Cech gets a strong hand to the effort and keeps the scoreline at 4-1. It’s damaged limitations at this point.

Cesar Azpilicueta gets in on the action up front. Eden Hazard picks out his captain with a clever pass behind enemy lines. Azpilicueta ventures forward slowly and surely and does decide to have a rare pop at goal. But the Spaniard’s effort whistles just wide of the post. Almost a fifth.

Imago 20190529 Source: Imago/PA Images


Close! Alexandre Lacazette comes close from point-blank range to halving the deficit and making it 4-2 late on. He peels away from his marker and latches onto a clever dinked cross into the box. The French striker has the whole goal to aim at, but his shot is right at Kepa, who makes a solid save.


Close again for Arsenal. It’s the two substitutes off the bench linking up brilliantly, Iwobi and Willock. A snappy one-two between the pair sees Willock clean through on goal, but his curled strike aimed for Kepa’s top corner flies just wide. He should have hit the target.

A free-kick from Lacazette flies just over the crossbar. Arsenal have been completely on top over the last 10 minutes, but it seems to be too little, too late. Iwobi’s goal gave the Gunners a glimmer of hope to try and get back into this, but Hazard’s second just put the game to bed. A total sucker punch.

Azerbaijan Soccer Europa League Final Source: Darko Bandic


The ball is kicked out of play by N’Golo Kante and play is brought to a halt as Eden Hazard goes down injured. He thumps the ground in pain and does seem to be in quite a bit of bother. His night is over, in fact, as the Belgian is replaced by Davide Zappacosta for the final couple of minutes.


There will be three minutes of stoppage time at the end of the second half.


It’s all over in Baku! Chelsea are crowned Europa League champions for the second time after an impressive second-half display yields a 4-1 win against London rivals Arsenal.

It was an evenly-fought opening half, but after the break Maurizio Sarri’s men just went to another level. A fine, pinpoint header from Oliver Giroud got the Blues up and running, before Pedro doubled his side’s lead and Eden Hazard bagged a brilliant brace.

It’s Sarri’s first senior professional trophy at the age of 60, capping off a more than respectable debut campaign at Stamford Bridge which saw him get to two cup finals, win one, and also secure a top four finish.

It’s heartbreak for Unai Emery and his players. The Spaniard won three Europa Leagues in a row with Seville in 2014, 2015 and 2016, but this year taste’s defeat for the very first time. Defeat tonight denies the Gunners Champions League football and they will be back in this competition again next season.

Thanks a million for joining us tonight — you can read our full match report here. Cya soon!

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About the author:

Aaron Gallagher


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