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.
This 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
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
"I think it is a goodbye, but in football you never know," the 28
year-old told BT Sport.
"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."
It is his, and Chelsea's, second Europa League this decade, while it is Maurizio Sarri's first major trophy as a coach.
They 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 just not good enough on a bizarre
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.
Chelsea will remember their evening with fondness, as will Sarri, who
24 hours earlier had stolen the headlines when he angrily stormed off
the pitch here during a training session in front of the television
"Sarri is a great guy, a great coach and he deserves this," said
David Luiz of his coach, who has been linked with a move to Juventus.
"The manager did amazing for this club. I don't know about speculation, now is the time to talk about the title."
The few Chelsea supporters who
came will not forget their night, but the fact there were reportedly
only around 1 300 in Azerbaijan will be a source of regret to those at
UEFA's decision to play the game here had been heavily criticised,
with the difficulty and cost of coming to the shores of the Caspian Sea
preventing many fans from travelling and meaning Arsenal's Armenian
midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan was controversially absent.
Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev was in the crowd, but there were
thousands of empty seats in the Olympic Stadium, which holds almost
That meant that, far away from the blood and thunder of a typical
derby fixture, this had the feel of an end-of-season exhibition match on
a foreign tour, for much of the first half anyway.
The players seemed short of their usual rhythm in a match played two and a half weeks after the Premier League season ended.
It came to life though, with an early moment of controversy when
referee Gianluca Rocchi dismissed Arsenal appeals for a penalty as
Alexandre Lacazette went down under goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga's
Granit Xhaka then saw his powerful strike from 25 yards graze the crossbar as the half-hour mark approached.
Only after that did Chelsea stir, but Petr Cech - facing his old
side in his final match before retiring - blocked Emerson Palmieri's
shot and then denied Giroud at the end of a fine move.
However, as the clock ticked past midnight after a goalless first
half, 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 this season's competition, and there was to
be no comeback from Arsenal, with Chelsea quickly putting this final
beyond their opponents' reach as Hazard took over.
He set up Pedro for a clipped finish low beyond Cech and into the far
corner on the hour mark, and five minutes later Hazard calmly rolled in
a penalty awarded after Ainsley Maitland-Niles had barged into Giroud.
Substitute Iwobi's sublime volleyed reply soon followed, but Arsenal
had left themselves with too much to do, and Giroud and Hazard combined
brilliantly for the latter to get his second and Chelsea's fourth in the