Baku: Eden Hazard scored twice and then admitted it was his parting gift as the Belgian’s brace helped Chelsea sweep away Arsenal to win 4-1 in the Europa League final in Baku.
The match started at 11pm local time on Wednesday in Azerbaijan, but it was Thursday by the time it came to life with a flood of second-half goals started by Olivier Giroud’s 49th-minute opener against his old club.
Hazard then set up Pedro Rodriguez for Chelsea’s second before grabbing a double of his own – including a penalty – either side of Alex Iwobi’s consolation for Arsenal.
The Belgian is widely expected to leave Chelsea for Real Madrid after seven years in England, and this was the perfect way for him to bow out.
“I think it is a goodbye, but in football you never know,” the 28 year-old said. “My dream was to play in the Premier League and I have done that for one of the biggest clubs so maybe now it is the time for a new challenge,” he added.
It is his, and Chelsea's, second Europa League this decade, while it is Maurizio Sarri’s first major trophy as a coach.
“I am really very happy but the trophy is very important for the club. In the Europa League we played 15 matches, won 12 and drew three, so I think we deserved to win it,” Sarri said.
Chelsea will be back in the Champions League next season, but there will be no return to Europe’s top table for Arsenal. Unai Emery’s side had to win here to qualify, yet they were not good enough on a bizarre night.
Emery was hoping to win this competition for the fourth time. He will get another chance next season, but for now Arsenal’s 25-year wait to bring back a European trophy to north London goes on.
As the clock ticked past midnight, Chelsea went ahead when Giroud stole in front of Laurent Koscielny and stooped to head home Emerson’s cross. It was his 11th goal in the competition, and there was to be no comeback from Arsenal, with Chelsea quickly putting this final beyond their reach as Eden Hazard took over....