Chelsea thrashed Arsenal 4-1 in Baku to win the Europa League as Maurizio Sarri won the first trophy of his managerial career and condemned the Gunners to another season in Europe’s second-tier competition.
Olivier Giroud opened the scoring against his former club four minutes after half-time with a superb header before Pedro’s first-time strike and a brace from Eden Hazard secured the Blues their first European silverware since lifting this trophy in 2013.
Arsenal’s 25-year wait for a major continental honour goes on. They have only substitute Alex Iwobi’s thunderous volley to take home from Azerbaijan as consolation after a dismal second-half display in which they conceded four times in 23 minutes.
Chelsea boss Sarri, under pressure for much of the season, was able to savour a landmark moment in his career but Unai Emery must now contemplate continuing his rebuild of the club following Arsene Wenger’s departure without Champions League football and the resultant modest transfer budget of around £40million.
The Blues sprung a major surprise at kick-off as N’Golo Kante was named in the starting line-up, making his first appearance since beating Watford on May 5.
On the eve of the final Sarri described Kante’s chances of playing as “50-50” – and that was before leaving the squad’s final training session prematurely – but he overcame a knee injury to line up alongside Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic in midfield.
Emery had insisted he was waiting until the last moment to decide whether Petr Cech would make his final appearance before retirement.
But it would have been a huge shock had he missed out against his former club, despite some raising concerns of a conflict of interest given widespread reports the 37-year-old will take up a technical director role at Stamford Bridge in the summer.
While talking to journalists after the match, Arsenal’s coach, Unai Emery said:
“We have to give our congratulations to Chelsea. The first half we played with a good challenge to take a good result. We had some chances to score. The match was going the right way I think, but the second half got away.“We tried to keep in the match, to get one goal, but their second goal was difficult for us [to come back from]. Things were going better for them in second half. When we wanted to do something, we weren’t able to score. They deserved to win.”