Eden Hazard bids goodbye to Chelsea in emotional message
If this is goodbye, then it was one hell of a parting gift.
Eden Hazard scored twice, made it clear he wants to leave in his post-match TV interview even before lifting the trophy on a night Arsenal and UEFA will want to forget.
Hazard made it his night, the London derby played 3,000 miles from home and delivered another match-winning performance and another trophy for Chelsea. He will be a sorry loss for English football, never mind just Chelsea.
Incredibly, it was the 16th major trophy of the Roman Abramovich’s 16-year reign and, for once, Chelsea’s Russian billionaire owner was in the stadium to see it. They are a winning machine.
Abramovich, of course, was one of the lucky ones as so many Chelsea and Arsenal fans could not get there thanks to UEFA's farcical decision to host a major European final in Azerbaijan.
As they danced around and celebrated after the trophy presentation, Chelsea’s jubilant players looked as if they had long since forgotten and that is understandable on a night of glory.
But this should serve as a warning that without the fans, the lifeblood of the game, then football is nothing. A derby with a European trophy at stake played out in a strange atmosphere with no passion and far too few real fans.
The Unai Emery magic touch in the Europa League also ran out, his three previous successes for Sevilla counted for little as Arsenal looked unbalanced, woefully short of ideas and quality. Their capitulation as they conceded four goals in 23 minutes was just embarrassing.
There are too many gaps and another season out of the Champions League will not give them much finance to improve matters. Chelsea, on the other hand, disproves all football logic which says clubs need stability.
Chelsea's revolving door policy with managers means there is never a dull moment and Maurizio Sarri looks to be heading for the exit door despite winning a European trophy and finishing third.
They have high standards at Stamford Bridge and yet the uncertainty seems to bring the best out of the players. Arsenal started better and yet Chelsea’s collection of big game players and serial winners rode it out to get the job done.
Arsenal can rightly complain about Henrikh Mkhitaryan not being there amid the Baku farce but others did not turn up either, most notably Mesut Ozil who went missing again and was even booed when he was substituted for Joe Willock in the second half.
Arsenal can also look to hard luck stories and were the better team in the first half an hour. Alexandre Lacazette felt he should have had a penalty, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed a big chance and Granit Xhaka sent a shot whistling just over.
But Chelsea know how to win. The breakthrough came after 49 minutes and, as is often with football, it was a former player back to haunt to his old club. Olivier Giroud’s flying header beat Petr Cech but Chelsea’s former Arsenal striker did not celebrate against his old club.
On the hour mark, Chelsea got a second. Mateo Kovacic started the move, Hazard found Pedro and the Spanish winger scuffed his shot but it still bobbled past Cech and into the far corner.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles’ push on Giroud gifted Hazard a penalty which he slotted home. Alex Iwobi came on as a substitute to smash home a brilliant shot but any hope was short-lived.
Hazard got his second of the night and Chelsea’s fourth after 72 minutes when he smashed home a half volley from Giroud’s cross.
Hazard is a class act, the Premier League will miss him not just Chelsea but this was yet another big trophy. Arsenal, meanwhile, have got out of the winning habit and Emery’s biggest task is to bring that back to the Emirates.
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