Chelsea 4-1 Arsenal
Ahead of this Europa League final at the impressive Baku Olympic Stadium, there were so many questions.
Would this be Eden Hazard’s final match in a Chelsea shirt after seven glorious years?
Could the club afford to sell him to Real Madrid, especially as it faces a transfer ban this summer? (The recruitment of Christian Pulisic after a fine season in the Bundesliga, confirmed before the sanction came into force may, of course, ease that departure.)
Could Maurizio Sarri survive another season at a club if his side was defeated?
After all, this is the club which parted company with Antonio Conte last summer after he won the FA Cup. (They did miss out on the Champions League, of course, something Sarri has managed to achieve, regardless of the result in Baku.)
Could Unai Emery, who loves this competition, win it for the fourth time?
Would the influential N’Golo Kante pass fit to play?
Would Chelsea legend Petr Cech get to play for the Gunners against his old side for one final match before retirement?
Was there really a need for this showpiece to be played in Azerbaijan? (Not that UEFA knew it would be an all-England showpiece when the stadium was chosen.)
SBOBET fans didn’t have long to wait to learn about all the big Europa League 2019 news.
Highlights of the game
The Europa League 2019 betting odds had Chelsea as slight favourites, but everyone knew there was little to choose between the two in this all-English affair.
And so it proved in a largely forgettable first half in which there were very few talking points.
The first was when Alexandre Lacazette going to ground under a challenge from Kepa Arrizabalaga- VAR ruled it was not a penalty.
The others were two fine saves from Cech, playing his final match as a professional with the extraordinary chance to retire with a trophy against his former, and probably future, employer.
It was all to play for as we went into the second half and, with neither side proving mentally robust this season, there was every possibility an early setback could send one team careering off the rails.
Cue Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud against the club which sold him.
Emerson curled the ball in from the left, and there was the Frenchman who flashed a header into the bottom left-hand corner under pressure from Laurent Koscielny.
To his credit, Giroud kept the celebrations to a minimum against his former club.
The next goal was crucial and when it arrived on the hour, it doubled the west Londoners’ advantage.
Mateo Kovacic shuttled the ball forward to Hazard, who slipped it back inside for Pedro and his first-time effort gave Cech no chance.
Arsenal were beaten and mentally it showed.
Four minutes later, Giroud was clumsily fouled by Ashley Maitland-Niles and Hazard applied the coup de grace from the spot.
To Arsenal’s credit, they pressed and Alex Iwobi scored the goal of the game with a sweet strike from the edge of the box – just moments after entering the fray.
Yet their mental weaknesses were clear for all to see as they were dispossessed within minutes as Hazard played a one-two with Giroud and swept the ball emphatically beyond Cech.
A perfect send-off for one of the Premier League greats.
Hazard was inches away from a hat-trick, as were Arsenal from snatching a second, but the result was never in doubt.
Sarri, under fire for much of this campaign, had the first major trophy of his coaching career and no one could begrudge him.
For counterpart Emery, the way his side collapsed after falling behind showed the task he faces despite a promising first season at the helm.
Returning to the Champions League after a two-year hiatus had been their number one aim all season and missing out – with the multimillion-pound knock-on to their transfer budget and their capacity to attract and keep players – will be an undoubted blow.
Yet this was Sarri’s day – and Hazard’s farewell.
A class act, it’s fitting he ends his Chelsea career as a winner.
This match was played at 11 pm local time!
Sarri is the UEFA Europa League’s oldest winning coach at 60 years, 139 days.
Chelsea are the first team to win a major European competition without losing a game during the campaign since Manchester United won the 2008 Champions League unbeaten.
They were unbeaten in all their 15 UEFA Europa League matches this term (won 12, drawn three).
Giroud finished as the top scorer in this season’s UEFA Europa League, with 11 goals – one ahead of Luka Jović of Eintracht Frankfurt.
This was the first Europa League tie to feature the VAR system.
Arsenal have never won a UEFA competition match against another English club in seven attempts (drawn two, lost five), their last five all ending in defeat.
That is the season over for both these clubs. Next season Chelsea will be back in the Champions League while a third successive Europa League campaign awaits Arsenal.
CHECK OUT OUR BLOG FOR MORE FOOTBALL STORIES & ODDS
Stay updated with everything sports and betting.