Saturday 20 July 2019

Hazard hits a brace and signals his departure as Gunners are torn apart

Chelsea 4 Arsenal 1

Final Act: Eden Hazard celebrates after scoring Chelsea’s final goal in their 4-1 victory over Arsenal in last night’s Europa League final in Baku. Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Final Act: Eden Hazard celebrates after scoring Chelsea’s final goal in their 4-1 victory over Arsenal in last night’s Europa League final in Baku. Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Sam Dean

Eden Hazard has confirmed that he intends to leave Chelsea and he gave the club a perfect leaving gift by scoring twice in a convincing 4-1 victory in the Europa League final against Arsenal.

Only at Chelsea could a season of such relentless turmoil, under a manager who is so loathed by so many of their supporters, culminate with a European title and a wonderful collective performance that suggests the future might well be bright.

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil looks dejected. Photo: Reuters/Lee Smith
Arsenal's Mesut Ozil looks dejected. Photo: Reuters/Lee Smith

This truly was the embodiment of the Roman Abramovich era at Chelsea, a club that swings from chaos to celebration with all the ease of Hazard drifting beyond a desperate full-back.

The Belgian's departure to Real Madrid has been all but confirmed and he said immediately after the game: "I think it's a goodbye, but in football you never know. Maybe it's time for a new challenge.

"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.

"We will decide in a few days and the only target in my mind tonight was to win this final. I have made my decision already and now I'm waiting on both clubs."

Chelsea's Eden Hazard in action with Arsenal's Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov
Chelsea's Eden Hazard in action with Arsenal's Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

Underlined

His second-half showing here underlined why he is the continent's most in-demand footballer.

Hazard's two goals and assist ensured that the Baku final will forever be known as much for being his final as it will for being Maurizio Sarri's first title.

How Hazard's ruthlessness contrasted with Arsenal, who knew that a win, and a subsequent return to the Champions League, would provide clarity over their long-term future. With defeat comes clouds of doubt and concern that the gap between Unai Emery's side and Europe's premier competition may only grow bigger.

The ease with which they were undone by Olivier Giroud, their former striker, for the opening goal will grate on Emery's mind all summer.

Chelsea's Eden Hazard in action with Arsenal's Matteo Guendouzi. Photo: Reuters/Phil Noble
Chelsea's Eden Hazard in action with Arsenal's Matteo Guendouzi. Photo: Reuters/Phil Noble

As will Pedro's excellent finish and the raw, unwelcome truth that the club have now failed to achieve their primary objective this season.

In terms of meaningful attacks, there was little of note in the first half. For a match dripping with sub-plots and intriguing contests, both on and off the pitch, it was unusually tame. Even the indomitable N'Golo Kante did not appear to be himself, although he was clearly far from fit.

That wastefulness in possession defined Chelsea's start to the night, with Arsenal imposing themselves better on the opening exchanges.

Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka were dominating the midfield, and Emery's side could, and perhaps should, have been awarded a penalty when Alexandre Lacazette was tripped by Kepa Arrizabalaga, the Chelsea goalkeeper, inside the box.

Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette in action with Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta. Photo: Reuters/Lee Smith
Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette in action with Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta. Photo: Reuters/Lee Smith

It was a surprise that no penalty was awarded, and even more of a surprise when the video assistant referee was not consulted, either.

Chelsea were far from comfortable, but they found some belated vigour before the break.

The involvement of Hazard helped them to first gain confidence and then create two of the game's clearest chances.

Petr Cech, in his final match as a footballer, thwarted his former team with sharp, alert saves from Emerson Palmieri and Giroud.

The Hazard threat loomed large and the Belgian surged past two challenges before finding Giroud again.

The shot was blocked on that occasion, but the grim reality for Arsenal was that Giroud's goal was coming.

Four minutes into the second half Giroud attacked Emerson's left-wing cross as Laurent Koscielny hesitated alongside him. The header, firm and low, was devastating.

Before Arsenal could adapt, it was two. Again Hazard was involved, and Pedro's finish from the Belgian's pass was accurate, if not clean. By this point, Emery's side had lost all their confidence and most of their composure.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles had started brilliantly, but his shove on Giroud in the penalty area was needless.

Hazard, inevitably, rolled home the penalty.

Arsenal found hope in Alex Iwobi, off the bench to lash home from range.

Hazard would not allow Arsenal much time for hope though, combining again with Giroud and rolling in his second, and surely final, goal in Chelsea blue. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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